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"8. nl. l r 

if ( i ti i v i It; 















THE feeling has frequently been expressed of late years that 
a history of Sanquhar would prove of no ordinary interest, 
considering the ancient origin of the town, its standing as 
one of the old Scottish burghs, its intimate connection 
through its old Castle and the doughty Crichtons, who ruled 
there with the most stirring period of our national history, 
and, at a later period, with the struggles of the Covenanters, 
and likewise, the antiquarian and topographical features of 
the district of which it is the centre. 

It is true that a small history of the place was published 
in 1865 by the late Rev. Dr Simpson, but it was defective in 
various respects, particularly in that no attempt was made to 
treat of municipal affairs, or of social manners and customs. 
I waited, however, in the hope that the duty would be under- 
taken by some one more experienced in literary work, but 
there being no appearance of that, and as much valuable 
information to be derived from oral sources was in danger of 
being lost, I felt constrained to assume the task. 

The first difficulty that presented itself was the plan of 
the book, having to deal as I had with a great mass of 
heterogeneous materials. No one plan was free from objec- 
tions, and the present was adopted as involving the least 
confusion. Another difficulty was the extraordinary fatality 
that seems to have attached to the ancient records of the 
town and parish. The Minutes of the Town Council for the 
first 120 years have all disappeared, and those of the Kirk- 
Session and other public bodies are likewise defective ; in 
this way, much information that would have been invaluable 
in the compilation of such a history, has been altogether 
lost. I have further to regret that I was denied access 

viii. Preface. 

to certain ancient charters of the Crichtons, recently dis- 
covered at Drumlanrig Castle, but now in the hands of a 
literary gentleman in Edinburgh, which would probably have 
thrown some light on the history of that family, and been 
the means of verifying much that may have been published 
on doubtful authority. 

It is, however, my duty to acknowledge, which I now 
gratefully do, the obligations under which I rest for valuable 
assistance rendered in the performance of my task to the 
family of the late Dr Simpson, for the liberty of making 
extracts from the history of Sanquhar published by him ; to 
the representatives of the late Dr Watson, Wanlockhead, and 
Mr Edmond, schoolmaster, there, for the description of the 
Wanlockhead Mines ; to Mr Thomas M'Naught, S.S.C., 
Edinburgh, for searches made in the State Records in Edin- 
burgh ; to Mr Galloway, Inspector of Schools, for the list of 
derivations of place-names ; to Dr Anstruther Davidson, for 
the chapter contributed by him on the Flora and Fauna of 
the district, written during his residence in Sanquhar, thereby 
supplying an element of interest not often found in a local 
history ; to Mr J. R. Wilson, Royal Bank, for information on 
antiquarian matters, and for access to his valuable collection ; 
and to friends who have proved exceedingly helpful in other 

In face, therefore, of the serious drawbacks mentioned, 
but with the compensation of these valuable aids, I launch 
the book in the hope that, notwithstanding its many 
inherent imperfections, it may be received as a not un- 
worthy history of a town and district, interesting from many 
points of view. 

SAXQCHAR, Auyust, 1891. 

C O 1ST T K N T 


Boundaries and extent of Parish, 1 Euchan, 2 Polvaird Loch, 2 
Pamphy Linns, 8 Eliock Estate and Woods, 12 Old Kirk- 
bride, 14 Enterkin Pass, 14 Crawick, 20 Mennock, 24 
Glendyne, 25 Wanlockhead,25 Sanquhar Moor, 26 Height 
of principal eminences, 27 Euchan Well, analysis, 27. 


Saen-Caer, 29 St. Bride's Well, 29 Ryehill Moat, 30 Kemp's 
Castle, 31 Black Loch and Lake Dwelling, 32 Remains of 
Ancient Strongholds, 33 Cairns, 34 -The Deil's or Picts' 
Dyke, 34 Chapel-yard of Dalpeddar, 35 Domestic Archi- 
tecture, 35 Sanquhar Old Cross, 36 List of Antiquarian 
Relics, 36. 


Early Settlers: Ancient British, Roman, Irish, &c., 39 The Edgars, 
41 The Norman Colonisation, 42 The Rosses of Ryehill, 43 
The Refugee Flemings, 45. 

Origin of name of Sanquhar, 47 Capture of Sanquhar Castle, 49 
The Black Douglas, 50 The Castle deer, 51 -The Feudal 
System, 52 Sanquhar Hospital, 53 Sanquhar Castle, descrip- 
tion of, 54. 


Sir Robert Crichton, Lord of Sanquhar, made Coroner of Nithsdale, 
64 Sheriff of Dumfries, 65 -Battle between the Crichtons 
and the Maxwells, 69 Raid by the Johnstones of Annandale, 
72 Appeal of the Sanquhar Widows to the King. 74 The 
Hamiltons of Sanquhar, 75 Patrick M'Crerick, 76 Feud 
between Crichton and Sir Robert Dalziel of Eliock, 77 Lord 
Sanquhar's Crime, 79 His Execution at Westminster, 80 


x. Contents, 


Visit of King James to Sanquhar Castle, 83 Sale of the 
Barony to Lord Queensberry, 85 Summoning of the Clans, 
Old Ballad, 87 Relics of the Crichtons, 92. 


Robert Crichton, Lord Elliock, 96 - The Admirable Crichton, 97 
The Dalyells of Elliock, 99 The Veitches, 100-Origin of the 
Veitch Family, 101 Feud between the Veitches and the 
Tweedies, 102 James Veitch, Lord Elliock, 104 -The estate 
entailed, 105 Sheriff Veitch, 105- Elliock House, 106. 


The National Covenant, 108 The Solemn League and Covenant, 
109 -The " Canterbury " of the Covenanters, ] 14 -The First 
Sanquhar Declaration by Cameron, 115 Reuwick's Declara- 
tion, 117 James Hyslop, poet, brief sketch of his life, 118 
The Cameronian's Dream, 119 Selections from the Traditions 
of the Covenanters, 121 James Kirkwood, curate, 136 
Cameron Demonstration at Sanquhar, 142 Cameron Monu- 
ment, 147. 


Conditions essential to the creation of a free Burgh Royal : The Storn- 
awayCase, 149 The First Convention of Scottish Burghs, 151 
Functions of the Convention, 1 53 Sanquhar Charter, 155 
Original Sett or Constitution of the Burgh, 159 -Admission 
to the Convention, 160 Privileges and Obligations of Burghs, 
161 Rights of Burgesses, 163 Condition of the Burgh in 
the 17th century, 165 Qualification of Commissioners to 
the Convention, 167 George Irving, Commissioner for 
Sanquhar, 168. 

First Council Minute Book, 169 -Boundaries of the Burgh, 170. 

The Common Lands : Pasturage of, 171 Cultivation of, 172 
"The Joggs," 173 Revenue from lands, 175. 

Coal : Lease of Coal on Larsbraes, 17-") Working of Coal on the 
Muir, 176 Revenues therefrom, 177 Division of the Muir 
Lands, 178. 

Parliamentary Representation, 180. 

Town Council, Election of, 183 Qualification of Members, 186 
Non-resident Members, 187 Commissioner to the General 
Assembly, 188 Dean of Guild, 190 Pitt or Boundary Stones, 

Contents. xi. 


191 Birleymen, 191 Revenues : Table of Customs, 191 
Market Dues, 192 Stent and Teind, 193 Burgess' Fees, 193 
Stallangers, 193 The Custom Question, 193 The Circus- 
horse case, 194 Abolition of Customs, 196. 

Powers of Magistrates : Licences, 197 Public Morals, 198 
Burgh Fiscal, 1 99 The Jailor, 199 Constables, 199 Poach- 
ing, 200 Smuggling, 200 Brieves of Chancery, 201 
Appointment of Schoolmaster, 203 Paving of the Streets, 
203 Management of Roads, 204 Sanquhar Lamb and Wool 
Market, 207 Pork Market, 208 Education, 208. 

The Town Clerk : John Crichton, his struggle with the Council, 
210 His resignation, 211. 

The Burgh Officer : His Duties and Salary, 213 Notable holders 
of the office : William Kellock, 214 Robert Dargavel, 215 
Sergeant Thomson, 215 James Black, 216. 

Celebrations : King's Birthday, quaint proclamation, 218 Trades 
Election, 220 The Riding of the Marches ; Captain Scott, 
221 Town Council Annual Election, 222. 

Dean of Guild (formerly Provost) Robert Whigham, 224 His 
Rivalry with Provost Otto, 225. 

Lighting of the Streets, 226 William Broom and Thomas Rae 
and their Contentions, 227 J. W. Macqueen, Town Clerk, 
227 Freedom of Burgh presented to the Duke of Buccleuch, 
231 Honorary Burgesses, 232 New Clock and Bell for Town 
Hall, 232 Loss of the Burgh Charter, 233 Search for, 234 
A New Charter obtained from Court of Session, 235 Liti- 
gation with Duke of Buccleuch, 236. 

Sanitary Measures, 237 Boring for Coal on the Muir, 237 
Draining of Green Loch, 238. 

New Public Hall, 240 -Fire-Hose, 241 -Adoption of the Police 
Act, 242. 

Building Facilities : Deputation to the Duke of Buccleuch, 242 
Building Society, 243. 

The Council House, Provost Abraham Crichton, 245 The Jail, 
246 Escapades of Prisoners, 246 Fire in the Jail : Henry 
Wright, 248 The Old Smithy : " The Convener," 249. 

Sanquhar Bridge : Act of Scottish Parliament for Maintenance, 
250 Flight of Queen Mary, 251 Footbridge, 252 New 
Bridge, 252. 


Powers of the Feudal Barons, 253 Fight at the Moss of Knockonie, 
254 The Barons, 255 Condition of Dumfriesshire in 1704, 
256-The Rebellions of 1715 and 1745, 256 The Sanquhar 

xii. Contents. 


Men under Provost Abraham Crichton, 258 Prince Charlie's 
Retreat, 258 Prince Charlie's Drum, 260. 

Abolition of Heritable Jurisdictions and its effects, 261 The 
effects of the Union, 263 Development of Manufactures, 263 
Condition of the People : their diet, times of scarcity, 264. 

Connection of the Poet Burns with the Town, 266 With John- 
ston of Clackleith, Rigg of Crawick Forge, and Provost 
Edward Whigham, 266. 

The Continental War : French Prisoners, 269. 

The Dry Year of 1826 and the great Snowstorm of 1827, 270 
Stage-Coaches, 271 William Cunningham's Walking Feat, 
272 The Resurrectionist Scare, 272. 

The Reform Bill Demonstration, 273. 

Folk-lore : Benjamin Robison (Ben) and other Characters, 273. 

Threatened Visitation of Cholera : Measures to ward off, 280 
The Long Frost, 281. 

The Making of the Railway : Disturbances by the navvies and 
collision with the populace, 282 Introduction of Gas, 283 
Reading Room, 284 Dalkeith Terrace constructed, 284 The 
Pump Well, 284 Gravitation Water Supply, 285 The 
Volunteer Movement, 285 Mr Ewart, M.P., and his 
opponent, Mr Haunay, 286 Earl of Dalkeith's majority, 
Celebration of, 286 Visit of the Prince and Princess of 
Wales, 286 Coming of age of Lord Eskdaill, 287 The 
Queen's Jubilee, 288. 

Effects of the Railway on the social habits and customs of the 
people, 289 Emigration, 289 Former Modes of Travelling, 
290 Fairs and their Accompaniments, 292 Obsolete Trades, 
296 Dissemination of News, 298. 

Travelling Circuses : Reminiscences of Mr Ord, 301 Amateur 
Theatricals: Charlie M'lver and " The Button," 308 Failure 
of Trade, 311 Practices of Trading, 311 Depopulation of 
the District, 313 Dress of the People, 317 Social Effects of 
the Railway, 319. 


Institution of the Curling Society, 320 The Curlers' Word and 
Grip, 321 Extracts from Society's Minutes and Curling 
Stories, 323. 


Agriculture : Condition of, in last century, 329 Highland Society 
Established, 330 Public Spirit of Duke Charles, 331 The 
"Breaking of the Tacks," 333 Turnip Cultivation introduced, 

Contents. xiii. 


334 Lint Cultivation and Manufacture, 334 Introduction of 
Tile-Draining and Liming, 335 Great Rise in Prices of Agri- 
cultural Produce, 336 Improvement of Cattle : Introduction 
of Ayrshires and of Clydesdale Horses, 337 The " good 
Duke " and Mr J. Gilchrist-Clark, 33S. 

Mining : Early Mining, Coal in Lime of old Castle Walls, 339 
Old Workings near town, 340 Lease of the Duke's Minerals 
to Mr Barker, 341 Coal-pits formerly worked, 342 Coal 
Traffic by Road, and its effect on the trade of the town, 343 
Recent Boring Operations and present prospects, 346 
Description of the Coal-field, 348. 

Weaving : Early Methods, 351 The Spinning W T heel, 353 The 
Tailor " whipping the cat " and the Pedlar on his rounds, 354 
Introduction of Cotton, 356 Condition of the Weavers, 357 
Their Characteristics, 357 The Fabrics worked, 359 
Introduction of the Power-Loom and consequent decay of 
Hand-Loom Weaving, 360 Carpet Weaving at Crawick Mill 
The Carpet Company, 363 Woollen Mills, 365. 

Miscellaneous: Brickmaking, 367 Forging, 368 Engineer- 
ing, 370. 


Observance of the Sabbath in early times, 371 Church Regula- 
tions, 372 System of Catechising, 374 Public Morals and 
Religious Observances, 375. 

The Sacrament : Manner of Celebration, 375 The abuses that 
arose in connection therewith -Burns and the Ecclesiastical 
Authorities, 379 The Tent Preachings, 381" Haudin' " the 
Sanquhar Sacrament, 382. 

List of Parish Ministers, 383 The Manse, 386 The Parish 
Church, 387 South U.P. Church, 388 North U.P. Church, 
390 The Free Church, 391 The E.U. Church, 392 Baptists 
Mission Hall, 393. 


Registers: The Old Parochial Register, 394 Population of the 

Parish, 395 Vital Statistics, 396. 

Education : Provisions for, 396 Educational Endowments Com- 
missioners' Scheme for Administration of the Crichton Trust, 
398 Re-organisation of the School, 398- -Schools at Wanlock- 
head and Mennock, 400 Notable Teachers : James Orr, 400 
James Laurie, 406. 

xiv. Contents. 


The Poor : Statutory Provision for, 408 The M'Aclam Bequest, 


Origin of Village, 413 Social Customs, 413 Social Economy, 414 
Steam Navigation, 415 Recreations of Miners, 419 Local 
Institutions, 420 -The Established Church, 421 The Free 
Church, 422. 
The Mines : Account of, 424 



r. f.r in/ 

. i r> n n M {< i , j i f ( r 


^ANQUHAR is situated on the left bank of the Nith, 
twenty-six miles north-west of Dumfries. The 
Parish is eighteen miles in length, by five miles in 
breadth, and embraces an area of above sixty-one 
square miles. The Nith, which takes its rise in 
Ayrshire, a few miles above New Cumnock, passes 
into Dumfriesshire at a point eight miles north-west of 
Sauquhar, by an opening in the chain of hills which skirts 
the northern boundary of the county, and terminates in 
Corsancone, the hills on the west side of the valley being 
linked with the great Galloway range. Having traversed 
the parish of Kirkconnel for a distance of seven miles, the 
river enters the parish of Sanquhar at the point where it is 
joined by Crawick. This stream forms the boundary between 
the two parishes on the east side of the valley, while on the 
west they are divided by Kello, which flows into Nith two 
miles higher. On the right bank the ground rises gradually 
to a range of hills which runs parallel to the course of the 
river. These hills are very uniform in height, and are 
smooth and green to their summits. They contain two prin- 
cipal eminences, the Black Lorg, 2890, and Cairnkinnow, 1813 
feet in height. At the back of the range, and overlooking 
Scaur, is the tremendous precipice of Glenwhargen, rising 
almost perpendicularly to the height of about 1000 feet. 
The Black Lorg stands at the north-west corner of the 
county. Forming, as it does, the water-shed of this region, 

2 History of Sanquhar. 

the sources of several streams are to be found here, giving 
rise to the rhyme 

" Euchan, Scaur, Kello, and Ken 
A' rise oot o' ae wee hill-en'. " 

Kello, as has been said, forms the boundary between Sanquhar 
and Kirkconnel, while Euchan, taking a more southerly 
course, drains the west side of Sanquhar parish, and falls 
into Nith just opposite the town. Near the head of Euchan 
there is on the summit of the hill above Glenglass, Polvaird 
Loch, a sheet of water a little over three acres in extent, and 
unique both in its situation and appearance. It is situated 
on the top of a hill 1800 feet above sea-level. It is in shape 
a parallelogram, not quite rectangular, two of the opposite 
corners being drawn out on the line of the diagonal. Its 
sides are so regular as to give the impression of its having 
been the work of man, but it is one of the mountain-tarns, 
which are so common a feature of Scottish scenery. This 
loch has no surface feeder except the rainfall which may 
find its way into the little basin in which it lies. It is, 
however, undoubtedly fed by springs, as is evidenced by the 
fact that, notwithstanding its great elevation, it is never quite 
frozen over even in the severest winter. Nor had it any 
natural overflow except what trickled through some marshy 
ground on the north-west side into the head of Polvaird 
Burn, which flows down to Euchan, till some years ago a 
ditch was dug connecting it with the burn, whereby its 
depth was reduced and its area somewhat restricted. This 
was done by the then tenant of the farm of Barr, on 
which the loch lies, on account of his having suffered the 
loss of a sheep by drowning in its waters. Polvaird contains 
very few fish. Efforts have been made from time to time 
to stock it with trout, a number having been transferred 
from the neighbouring Euchan, but they do not appear to 
thrive ; at all events, the angler's art is plied with scant 
success. There are several rude curling-stones, with primi- 

Hitsto'ry of Sattqukwr. 3 

tive handles, lying on its banks; and to prevent the credulous 
antiquary of a future time from constructing some wonderful 
theory on the existence of these stones, it may be explained 
that they were carried up by the family of one of the shep- 
herds on Euchan water, in order that they might have the 
opportunity of enjoying Scotland's " roaring game " in the 
only possible place in this region. 

Towards the end of last century, this country-side was 
robbed of much of its natural beauty by the despicable 
policy of the last Duke of Queensberry. He had no issue, 
and, it is supposed, to spite the collateral branch of the 
family who were to succeed him, doomed to destruction the 
woods on the estate. It does seem that the Duke had been 
animated by some such malicious, spiteful motive, for had 
the raising of money merely been his object, he would have 
confined the fell work of destruction to the enclosed woods 
and plantations, which were of some commercial value, 
whereas we find that not even the bonnie glens were spared, 
but that they were robbed of their adornment of natural 
wood. It was at this time that one of the sides of the 
Euchan was cleared, but, fortunately, the other had not been 
overtaken when the old Duke's death occurred, and then the 
work was promptly put an end to. The following verses 
were found written on a window-shutter of a small inn on 
the banks of the Nith soon after this district, one of the 
finest in the south of Scotland, had been thus disfigured to 
gratify an unworthy passion. It is not unlikely that they 
were written, as has been supposed, by Burns, as he was 
given to scribbling down his effusions in such places : 

" As on the banks of wandering Nith 

Ae smiling morn I strayed, 
And traced its bonnie howes and haughs, 

Where Unties sang and lambkins played, 
I sat me down upon a craig, 

And drank my fill o' fancy's dream, 
When, from the eddying pool below, 

Up rose the genius of the stream. 

4 History of Sanquhar. 

Dark, like the frowning rock, his brow, 

And troubled, like his wintry wave, 
And deep, as sighs the boding wind 

Among his caves, the sighs he gave : 
' And cam' ye here, my son,' he cried, 
' To wander in my birken shade ? 
To muse some favourite Scottish theme, 
Or sing some favourite Scottish maid ? 

There was a time, it's nae lang syne, 

Ye might hae seen me in my pride ; 
When a' my weel-clad banks could see 

Their woody pictures in my tide ; 
When hanging beech and spreading elms 

Shaded my streams sae clear and cool, 
And stately oaks their twisted arms 

Threw broad and dark across the pool. 

When, glittering through the trees, appeared 

The wee white cot aboon the mill, 
And peaceful rose its ingle reek 

That slowly curling clamb the hill. 
But now the cot is bare and cauld, 

It's branchy shelter's lost and gane, 
And scarce a stinted birch is left 

To shiver in the blast its lane. ' 

' Alas,' said I, ' what wofu' chance 

Has tyned ye o' your stately trees ? 
Has laid your rocky bosom bare 1 

Has stripped the cleading aff your braes ? 
Was it the bitter eastern blast 

That scatters blight in early spring ? 
Or was't the wil' fire scorched their boughs, 

Or canker-worm wi' secret sting ?' 

' Nae eastern blast,' the sprite replied ; 
It blaws nae here sae fierce and fell ; 
And on my dry and halesome banks 

Nae canker-worms get leave to dwell. 
Man ! cruel Man !' the genius sighed, 

As through the cliffs he sank him down, 
The worm that gnawed my bonnie trees 
That reptile wears a Ducal Crown. ' " 

In spite, however, of the extent to which Euchan was thus 
disrobed of much of its beauty, it is a bounie glen. A good 

History of Sanquhar. 5 

road runs along almost its entire length, and no pleasanter 
walk on a summer day could be desired. It is necessary to 
offer a word of caution to visitors by informing them that 
this glen is infested with adders. These snakes are frequently 
to be seen basking themselves on the sunny brae which forms 
the left bank of the stream. They measure about 18 inches 
and even more in length. The careless walker might readily 
step on one of them, for in pails the ground is covered with 
deep heather, but this would be a case of " caught napping," 
for the adder at the sound of human footstep glides rapidly 
out of sight. He will not stand his ground, far less offer 
attack, unless he be come upon unexpectedly and find his 
retreat cut off. But the danger is more imaginary than real, 
for there is no record of any accident through adder-bite 
there. There is excellent trout fishing in the tributaries of 
the Nith, and particularly in Euchan. During last year, up 
to the month of June, one angler alone caught over one 
hundred dozen of fair size, all the smaller being returned to 
the water. There is nothing particularly noteworthy about 
the hills in the upper part of Euchan glen, unless it be what 
is known as the Banyan Crag, a little above the Bank dyke. 
This Crag presents a bold, precipitous front several hundred 
feet in height. While the water of Crawick and Mennock 
is remarkably clear and limpid, Euchan, particularly when it 
is in flood, pours down a volume of water embrowned with 
peat, which forms dark, mysterious pools, and shews a fine 
rich colour where it tosses impetuously over its rocky bed. 
For two miles above its outlet the course of this stream is 
most picturesque. Ceasing at the farm-house of Old Ban- 
to flow, as it has done from its source, in the open, it enters 
between walls of rock, through which it has, in the course of 
ages, worn a deep channel, washing the whinstone perfectly 
smooth, and into the most fantastic shapes. One cascade 
after another, with dark, deep narrow pools between, forms 
a most striking and charming picture. When in flood the 
Euchan here roars and thunders like a miniature Niagara, 

6 History o 

and a peep of the " Deil's Dungeon " for so this part is 
named can only be obtained from one point or another of 
the overhanging crag ; but on a summer day, when the 
volume of water is small in comparison, a splendid view of 
the " Dungeon " can be obtained by descending to the bed 
of the stream by a steep narrow path at the point where that 
dark gruesome gullet ceases. Here the stream parts into 
two, leaving a spacious level rock in the centre quite dry. 
This rock can be easily enough reached from either side by- 
creeping along the bank till where the parted stream is at the 
narrowest, and a short step lands one safely. It is well 
worth the trouble of the descent. The rocks rise up in huge 
masses on either side, and are crowned with trees, which 
swing their arms over the overhanging ledge. Looking up, 
one sees the water sweep round a bend, which forms the 
limit of the view, turning the whole into a sort of chamber. 
It tumbles over a large rock, which still obstructs its progress, 
and then sweeps down as if it would carry one away, but 
presently, being no longer fretted by any barrier, it finds 
ample room for itself in a dark pool, and then parting, it 
glides swiftly and silently past in two black narrow channels. 
But for the difficulty of access this would form an admirable 
place for a pic-nic. 

A little distance below the " Deil's Dungeon " the stream 
again passes through a long channel of rock not more than 
three or four feet wide, which bears the name of " The 
Lover's Loup." The name is probably associated with a long- 
forgotten tradition ; as it is, the leap across, though not a 
great one, tries the nerve of him who performs it, for the 
water, dark as Erebus and of profound depth, fascinates the 
eye, and is apt to render the head giddy. Immediately 
under " The Lover's Loup " we come to what are known as 
the " Drappin' Linns," where the freestone first makes its 
appearance. These Linns are on the east side of the stream, 
where the soft rock towers up to a height of forty feet or so, 
and overhangs the river bed in a picturesque manner ; the 

History of SanquJiar. 7 

name which it has received being derived from the water 
which continually drips from the roof of this cave-like recess. 
The footpath up the bank of the stream runs over the top of 
the linns on a narrow ledge, and the trepidation, caused as 
one passes along this dangerous path at the sight of the 
overhanging precipice, would be increased were it known, as 
it is not to every one, that the whole mass has such an 
apparently slender hold. The course of the water now reveals 
the change that has taken place in the rock strata. It runs 
over beds of freestone, and traces of the coal measures 
become discernible. The rock on the edge of the field is 
very soft in texture, yielding readily to the influence of the 
waters, by which it is worked into the most curious forms, 
as, for example, at the " Drappin' Linns " above mentioned, 
and the " Pamphy Linns," a short distance across the moor. 
The Falls of Euchan, a little farther down, present a face of 
freestone, fifteen or twenty feet thick ; while a short distance 
down stream, the rock is found very hard and compact. The 
colour being a very light grey, it has been quarried on an 
extensive scale for building purposes. From it the material 
for the new bridge over the Nith, built in 1855, was obtained. 
Just opposite Euchan Falls, on the west side, tradition says 
there was once a waulk-mill. There are certainly traces of 
what appears to have been a mill-race, whereby the water 
had been diverted for some industrial purpose. Near the 
same place, and on the same bank, are the remains of a 
cottage or cottages, probably in connection with the mill. 
In the glen of Euchan there are the ruins of quite a number 
of houses, but this is an example only of what is to be seen 
in all directions, and affords proof of the extent to which 
depopulation has been carried on in our country districts. 
Between the Falls and the quarry stands an object of anti- 
quarian interest. In the angle formed by the junction of 
the Barr Burn with Euchan is a ridge, pretty steep on the 
Barr Burn side, and perfectly inaccessible from the Euchan, 
the rocks rising there like a wall. A position like this, with 

8 History of Sanquhar. 

exceptional means of defence of a natural kind, could not 
escape the eye of the dwellers of that early time, and so we 
find that it was once a stronghold bearing the name of 
Kemp's Castle. A more detailed description of this spot 
will be found in the chapter on the antiquities of the district. 
On the Barr Burn are the " Pamphy Linns " curious and 
interesting, but not so imposing as the name by which they 
have been dignified would lead one to expect. They are, 
however, well worth a visit. There being no road up the 
barn, the visitor must proceed by the Barr and Barr Moor 
house. Passing round behind the latter one must strike 
straight across the field towards the wood in front, where a 
gate in the dyke gives him entrance to the wood, through 
which the burn here pursues its course. The Linns are 
formed by the action, on the soft freestone, of the two small 
burns, which at the foot join to form the Barr Burn, by 
which it has been carved into the most grotesque forms. 
The rock lies near the surface, and the burn having washed 
away its slight covering of soil has worn a channel narrow 
and ever deepening. Curiously enough, the lower stratum of 
rock is much softer than the portion overlying it. Thus it 
is, that so soon as the water had worn its way through the 
upper stratum, the lower was scooped out on all sides when 
the burn was in flood, leaving the harder upper rock over- 
hanging these subterranean chambers in the most wonderful 
manner. The rock had originally stretched across the course 
of both burns, and each had cut its way through, leaving the 
centre part towering up intact between them. When the 
wood was enclosed about forty years ago, there was perpe- 
trated what some will regard as a piece of vandalism, for, 
with no regard to the romantic beauty of this secluded spot, 
the rocks were torn down and carted away for the construc- 
tion of the dyke. It was a wanton act, too, for the same 
rock lies all round in the fields quite near to the surface, and 
it stripped the "Pamphy Linns" of much of their former glory. 
We have been thus particular in giving the approach to 

History of Sanqukar. 9 

these linns because, like many of the natural beauties to be 
met with in moorland districts, they migh't, being all under 
the level of the ground, be passed unobserved by any one 
riot acquainted with their locality. The same natural 
operation is to be seen on a larger scale at Oichope 
Linns, near Thornhill, where the rock, being of the same 
description, like results have been produced by the water's 

Not a hundred yards from the foot of the road which 
leads to Euchan quarry, and which thereafter continues up 
the side of the stream as a footpath, there issues from the 
face of the rocky bank a spring known as Euchan Well, or 
Baird's Well Baird, who resided in the little cottage at the 
opening of the road, being a " character " in his way. That 
the spring has a deep source is evident from the fact that 
the quantity of water issuing from it is not affected by the 
rainfall, nor is its temperature by the season, the latter 
quality giving rise to the popular notion, which applies to 
many deep springs, that it is coldest in summer and warmest 
in winter that being so only in imagination, and caused by 
the contrast which its equable temperature presents to the 
prevailing temperature of other objects. Some years ago 
attention was drawn to the character of this well, which is 
of the chalybeate class. The analysis will be found at the 
end of this chapter. Numbers of people professed to having 
found its water to be valuable in its tonic and other properties. 
It was opened out, a pipe inserted, by which the water is 
now discharged, a drinking cup attached to the rock, and 
a gravelled footpath constructed alongside the road leading 
past it. Dreams were cherished of the possible revival of the 
prosperity of Sanquhar, which was in a sadly reduced state, 
owing, first, to the closing of the carpet works at Crawick 
Mill, and next, to the decay of the handloom weaving, which 
was driven to the wall by the introduction of machinery. It 
was hoped that, with this medicinal spring and all the 
attractions of pure air and charming scenery, Sanquhar 


10 History of&anquhar. 

might become a popular health resort, but that hope has not 
been realised as yet to any great extent. 

There are few districts in Scotland which can be compared 
with that of Upper Nithsdale, of which Sanquhar is the 
centre, for all that goes to make a desirable summer resort. 
The description which is here given of its topographical 
features will give the reader an idea, however imperfect, of 
its wealth of natural beauty a beauty which embraces 
every element of mountain and plain, hill and dale, forest 
glade and dark ravine, lonely moor and cultivated holm- 
lands, roaring cataract and placid pool, breezy upland and 
bosky glen the whole invested with an historical interest 
of no common order. What besides increases the attractions 
of the district to the visitor is the almost absolute and unre- 
strained freedom to be enjoyed. Notices of " Trespassers 
will be prosecuted," " Keep to the road," and others of a like 
nature, by which a selfish and exclusive landlordism would 
seek to deprive the general public of enjoyments which 
are the heritage of humanity, are nowhere to be seen. In 
this respect the Duke of Buccleuch, and, following his 
example, the other landed proprietors of the district, have 
allowed to all the liberty to roam wheresoever they list. 
In this and other respects the family of Buccleuch have, 
constantly in their-relations with the public, set an example 
of unselfishness and kindly feeling, which were it more widely 
imitated would go far to soften the antagonism that has 
oftentimes been created between class and class by those 
petty and irritating restrictions upon the exercise of privi- 
leges which are the source of the purest delight to the 
people, and which neither invade the natural rights nor 
injure the interests of the possessors of the soil in any 
conceivable way. 

It is evident that considerable changes have occurred in 
the course of the River Nith and some of its tributary 
streams. Gradual changes are common enough in most 
river courses, and are usually caused by the detrition of the 

History of Sanqufiar. 1 1 

banks from the action of the waters. Within recent times 
Nith has made serious inroads, for example, on its right hank 
just below the Bridge, and opposite the Washing Green, the 
river now running much farther south, and in a deeper 
channel, than it did within the memory of the present 
generation ; but we refer to what must have been a sudden 
and complete change of course, the result, probably, of a 
more than ordinarily heavy flood. Judging from the con- 
figuration and the constitution of the soil, which is very 
gravelly, Crawick, when it had reached the open valley, 
instead of pursuing a straight westerly course till it was 
received into the bosom of the larger stream, must at one 
time have swept round in a more southerly direction, skirting 
the base of the plateau which is here formed, and on which 
the Manse stands, and have joined Nith about the farmhouse 
of Blackaddie, if not farther down. Then, with regard to 
Nith itself, we conclude on similar grounds that its course 
opposite Sanquhar has undergone a material alteration. On 
the left bank, from where the Old Bridge crossed the river 
at the foot of the Washing Green to the King's Scaur, a 
distance of a mile, the ground rises quite precipitously to a 
height of 100 feet. This line of cliffs is known as the Brae- 
heads, and there can be little doubt that at one time Nith 
flowed close to their base all the way. The line takes a 
somewhat sharp bend at a certain point, and here it is that 
the river, swollen to an unusual height, had burst its 
southern bank, and pursued its headlong career through 
the alluvial plain. It was speedily checked, however, in its 
wayward course, for the cliff at the Mains Pool stood in 
its way. There it was compelled to turn again towards 
the east, and after a graceful curve and sweep round the 
Mains Holm, it regained its ancient course at the King's 
Scaur. It is on the edge of the cliffs above mentioned that 
the Castle of Sanquhar stands. The ancient strongholds 
which are scattered all over the country are generally found 
built on positions of natural strength, presenting as great 

1 2 History of Sanquhar. 

difficulty of attack as possible. The position of Sanquhar 
Castle on this, the south-west side was thus well protected, 
and with the river running at the base of the cliff it would 
be practically unassailable. Proceeding southwards, the 
valley contracts, the hills rising abruptly on both sides from 
the river, which now loses its general character of a broad, 
smooth-flowing stream, and is confined within a narrow 
rocky channel, its course for several miles being marked by 
a succession of rushing rapids and long, deep, dark pools. 
Its banks are here in many parts densely wooded, and with- 
out doubt this is the most picturesque part, of the whole of 
Nithsdale. Indeed, the road from Sanquhar to Thornhill, 
which runs close to the river the greater part of the way, is 
one of the most charming walks or drives in the whole 
South of Scotland. A grand and most commanding view 
of this part of the valley can be obtained from the 
railway, which is cut out of the hill-side high above 
the bed of the river, and travellers whose attention may be 
drawn to it at the proper moment are enthusiastic in their 
praise of the charming combination of woodland and stream. 
In leafy June the trees overhanging its banks oak, birch, 
and hazel, with many a bush and shrub between spread a 
mantle of green so thick as almost to entirely screen the 
river from view, as it tosses and foams down its rocky 
channel or glides slowly along smooth deep reaches; but in 
October the scene has a fresh charm, for the trees put on 
their autumn tints, and the eye is delighted with the glory 
of the woods with all their endless variety of brown and red. 
Nowhere is this aspect of nature to be witnessed in greater 
perfection than on the finely-wooded estate of Eliock, which, 
in addition to its plantations of larch and spruce, possesses a 
fair stock of natural woods. The first notable specimens are 
a pair of Scotch firs growing at the road-side close to the 
Lodge, which measure nine feet round the base. These are 
typical specimens of the Scotch fir, being straight and clean 
for fifty feet from the ground, and surmounted by a shaggy 

History of Sanquhar. 13 

head of dark green branches. Close to them stands a fine 
example of spruce, of the same girth, and 100 feet in height. 
A still better grown specimen, of the same height, but 
measuring twelve feet, stands majestically in front of Eliock 
House, while another, even more stoutly built, tapes 172 
inches round the butt. A splendid ash adorns the avenue, 
whose wide-spreading branches cover a circle seventy feet in 
diameter, while a beech is not far distant under whose 
umbrageous shade a very large party might find shelter 
from a noon-day sun, the area embraced being 240 feet in 
circumference. The outlook from the house, of noble trees 
of this description, has a singular grace lent to it by the 
magnificent specimens of weeping birch which are scattered 
over the policies. Individual trees of this variety are to be 
seen nine feet in girth and 80 feet in height. They are 
built in elegant and symmetrical fashion, and form a beau- 
tiful feature of the landscape. These birches with their 
spreading branches, from which hang pendant long lace- 
like tendrils, are an engaging sight at any season, but when 
covered with hoar-frost glistening in the sunlight of a 
winter morning like a thousand diamond points they form a 
brilliant spectacle. Perhaps the most notable of all in the 
whole woods, however, is a magnificent row of silver firs, 
seventeen in number, which stand in line on the top of a 
slightly raised bank not far from the house, and flanking the 
main park. They are, without exception, grand examples of 
their kind, averaging 100 feet in height, and, standing 
shoulder to shoulder, show an unbroken mass of foliage from 
one end to the other. The one which stands at the eastern 
flank of the line slightly over-tops its neighbours, and 
measures eighteen feet at the ground. What a pity, one 
feels, that they had not been planted along the avenue, 
where a double row would have given to the approach to 
the house a dignity and character which it lacks. Standing 
where they .do, however, they look stately and imposing 
when viewed from a little distance. A little way up 

14 History of Sanquhar. 

the hill brings us into a part of the wood where oaks 
grow unusually straight and clean. One shoots up like an 
arrow for twenty feet from the ground, and is fourteen feet 
ill girth. Strange to say, a large proportion of the finer 
trees on this estate are planted in out-of-the-way situations, 
but a lover of forestry will find himself delighted with a 
ramble through the woods. 

On the left bank of the river farther down lies dark 
Auchensell, the terror of all travellers by road in the olden 
time, with which is associated many a story of highway 
robbery and of uncanny sights to be there seen in the dark 
winter nights. These traditions and superstitions (for the 
most part they were nothing more) have given way before 
the advance of education and enlightenment ; still his is a 
stout heart which does not beat faster as he finds himself 
plunged in its gloomy depths. On the slope of the hill near 
Auchensell stands the ancient Church of Kirkbride, belonging 
to the pre-Reformation period. Kirkbride was long a 
separate parish. It lay mainly on the east side of the Nith, 
between the parishes of Sanquhar and Durisdeer, but there 
were also included within its bounds the lands of Craigdar- 
roch, Twenty-shilling, Hawcleughside, Rowantreeflat, and 
Little Mark, all on the estate of Eliock, on the opposite side 
of the water. The old Church is beautifully situated on the 
western side of the glen of Enterkin, opposite the farm- 
house of Cosh ogle. From the shoulder of the ridge imme- 
diately below the Church, just where the Nith takes a sharp 
bend in its course, the most extensive view possible of the 
valley is to be obtained. This is the only point, unless one 
climbs to a great height, whence Corsancone, at the head of 
the valley, on the borders of Ayrshire, and Criffel overlooking 
the Solway at the mouth of the river, a stretch of forty miles 
can be taken in by the eye. Crossing to the opposite side of 
the Nith, and looking to the north-east from the crest of 
Drumlanrig Ridge, another grand and most striking view of 
the ^district is to be had. So abruptly does the Ridge rise 

History of Sanquhar. 15 

from the water's edge, and so narrow is the valley, that one 
feels as if he might toss a stone across to the other side of 
the glen. The lower reaches of the ground are spread out 
beneath the feet ; the comfortable farm-houses and cottages 
with which the country-side is dotted can be easily picked 
out, and every little ravine and bosky dell lies plainly 
revealed to the eye. Immediately opposite, the old Kirk- 
bride Kirk stands, as has been said, pleasantly situated on 
the green hill-side, its hoary ruins carrying us back in 
memory to the Reformation period and the times of the 
Covenant. The yawning mouth of Enterkin Pass is dark 
and gloomy, and draws the eye upwards to where the mighty 
Lowthers lift their broad shoulders to the sky. Eastward, 
the Durisdeer hills on the one side of the Carron soft and 
green, and on the other black and frowning show us in the 
back-ground the opening of the famous Dalveen Pass and 
the Wall path, while to the south the valley of the Nith is 
spread out in panoramic beauty, forming a picture that the 
eye delights to rest upon. Nowhere in the southern highlands 
can a scene be viewed of such an extensive range, and embrac- 
ing such contrasts of rugged mountain and gloomy pass, rolling 
upland and fruitful field, trickling rivulet and burn, fringed 
with birch and hazel, moss and fern, and broad-bosomed river 
sweeping through rich woodland and meadow. 

On the translation in 1727 of Peter Rae, its last minister, 
and a famous man of his time, to Kirkconnel, Kirkbride 
was merged by the Lords Commissioners of Teinds in the 
neighbouring parishes of Sanquhar and Durisdeer. The 
Water of Mennock having been the boundary between Kirk- 
bride and Sauquhar, it was at this time that Dalpeddar, 
Glenim, and a small portion of Coshogle were added to the 
latter parish. The Auld Kirk of St. Bride had long been 
regarded by the country folks as a particularly holy spot : 
the disjunction of the parish, therefore, caused a considerable 
feeling of resentment, and burials were continued in the 
Kirkyard long after religious service in the Church had 

16 History of Sanquhar. 

ceased indeed, burials still occur, at rare intervals, of people 
who have long been connected with the district, and whose 
ancestors lie in this " bonnie Kirkyard." The ruins of the 
Kirk continued to be held in great veneration, and according 
to the superstitious notions of the age no good could come to 
anyone who interfered with the sacred fabric. As an example 
of this, it was firmly believed that the untimely death of the 
redoubtable Abraham Crichton, Provost of Sanquhar, who 
fell from his horse at Dalpeddar and broke his neck, was to 
be attributed to the fact that he had impiously threatened 
to destroy the ancient edifice, declaring " I'll sime ding doon 
the Whigs' sanctuary." For some time after his burial in 
Sanquhar Churchyard his troubled spirit moved abroad, and 
was a terror to the young girls, at whom it grinned over the 
Kirkyard dyke as they passed to the milking of their cows. 
At last these cantrips could be no longer endured, and, after 
a chain had been fixed over his grave to keep him down, but 
without effect, more spiritual means were adopted, and the 
services of an eminently godly man, the Rev. Mr Hunter of 
Penpont, were invoked. This worthy minister had "personal 
dealings " with the ghost. Whether the restless spirit 
found peace by a full confession of sins committed while in 
the body, or whether it was rebuked with authority and 
power by this man of God, and commanded to forsake for 
ever the realms of the living, and confine itself to its own 
native shades, can never be known. No mortal ear listened 
to the solemn interview, but the palpitating hearts of the 
maidens were composed, and Abraham's ghost ceased from 
troubling. For the last twenty years or so, from time to 
time, an open-air sermon has been preached at Kirkbride on 
the first Sabbath of July, in commemoration of the Cove- 
nanters' struggle, and with the object of raising funds for'the 
repair of the Churchyard wall, which was fast becoming 
dilapidated. An occasional sermon was preached prior to 
that period, for Dr (then Mr) Simpson, of Sanquhar, the 
historian of the Covenanters, did preach at the Auld Kirk 

History of Sanquhar. 17 

about sixty years ago. The choice of a suitable text caused 
the preacher much concern, and during a walk with Dr 
Purdie, with whom, being still unmarried, he then lodged, 
he said that he had searched diligently, but could not fix 
upon one that satisfied him. ' Aye, man, Robert," 
answered the Doctor, " there's surely no mickle in yer 
heid. What do you think of this for your text, " Our 
fathers worshipped in this mountain ? " " Oh, man," replied 
the minister, " that's the very thing, Doctor ; " and upon 
these suggestive words he, when the day came, preached 
what was then described as a grand sermon, and which was 
held in remembrance in the countryside for many a day. 

The Pass of Enterkin, which here runs into the Nith 
valley, with its wildness and solitude, was visited by Dr John 
Brown, of Edinburgh, the author of " Rab and His Friends," 
who wrote the following description of it. It will be well, 
however, to explain that Dr Brown descended the glen 
contrary to the usual practice, which is to ascend lest any 
visitor should, after reading the description, experience the 
same perplexity that befel a traveller, who ascended, in 
identifying its features as therein given. He was about to 
conclude that the paper more correctly represented the fertile 
imagination of the writer than the actual facts, when the 
thought flashed upon him that he might be traversing the 
scene in the opposite direction to that followed by the 
learned doctor. Having reached the top, he retraced his 
steps, and then all was plain and intelligible : 

" We are now nearing the famous Enterkin Pass ; a few steps and you 
are on its edge, looking down giddy and amazed into its sudden and 
immense depths. We have seen many of our most remarkable glens and 
mountain gorges Glencroe and Glencoe Glen Nevis, the noblest of them 
all the Sma' Glen, Wordsworth's Glen Almain (Gleualmond), where 
Ossian sleeps, the lower part of Glen Lyon, and many others of all kinds 
of sublimity and beauty but we know nothing more noticeable, more 
unlike any other place, more impressive than this short, deep, narrow, 
and sudden glen. There is only room for its own stream at its bottom, 
and the sides rise in one smooth and all but perpendicular ascent to the 
height, on the left, of 1895, Thirstane Hill, and on the right of 1875, the 


18 History of Sanguhar. 

exquisitely moulded Stey Gail or Steep Gable so steep that it is no easy 
matter keeping your feet, and if you slip you might just as well go over a 
bona-fide mural precipice. This sense of personal fear has a fairly ideal- 
istic effect upon the mind, makes it impressionable and soft, and greatly 
promotes the after enjoyment of the visit. The aforesaid Stey Gail makes 
one dizzy to look at it such an expanse of sheer descent. If a sheep dies 
when on its side, it never lies still, but tumbles down into the biirn ; and 
when we were told that Grierson of Lag once rode at full gallop along its 
slope after a fox, one feels it necessary to believe that either he or his 
horse were of Satanic lineage. No canny man or horse could do this and 

"After our first surprise, we were greatly struck with the likeness of the 
place to a picture of it by Mr Harvey, exhibited in our Academy in 1846, 
and now in Mr Campbell of Blythswood's collection. This was one of this 
great painter's first landscapes, and gives the spirit, the idea of the place 
with wonderful truth and beauty its solemnity and loneliness, its still 
power, its gentle gloom, its depth and height, its unity, its sacred peace. 
' It is not quiet, is not ease, 

But something deeper far than these ; 

The separation that is here 

Is of the grave ; and of austere 

Yet happy feeling of the dead.' 

We have heard that the artist, who sat alone for hours sketching, got so 
eerie, so overpowered with the loneliness and silence that he relieved 
himself from time to time by loud shouts, and was glad to hear his own 
voice or anything. It must be a wonderful place to be alone in on a mid- 
summer's midnight, or at its not less bewitching noon. 
' In such a glen as this, on such a day, 
A poet might in solitude recline ; 
And, while the hours unheeded stole away, 
Gather rich fancies in the art divine : 
Great thoughts that float through Nature's silent air, 
And fill the soul with hope, and love, and prayer.' " 

This Entevkin Pass is cut deep into the great range of 
mountains which, encircling the northern border of the 
County of Dumfries, culminate overhead in the Lowthers, a 
great and imposing mass. From the summit of the Lowthers, 
at a height of 2400 feet ; a view is to be obtained unsurpassed 
in its range and its diversity of feature. It comprehends the 
greater part of the southern counties of Scotland. The 
valleys of the Nith arid the Annan lie under the fet, spread 
out in all their expanse of cultivated beauty ; the head 

History of Sa nqukar. \ y 

waters of the Tweed and Clyde are seen starting as little 
trickling rills on their journey to the sea ; the dark brow of 
Skiddaw is visible as he stands head and shoulders above 
the mighty group by which he is surrounded, and which do 
him reverence ; while to the west the hills of Galloway 
stretch away like a billowy sea as far as the eye can reach. 
. The extensive panorama also includes the Firth of Clyde 
and Goatfell, and the mighty Ben Lomond. The view, 
whether for extent or magnificence, undoubtedly rivals that 
to be obtained from any of the loftiest eminences in the 
whole kingdom. 

In the superstitious times, reaching down to a compara- 
tively recent period, the right of Christian burial was denied 
to suicides, and the corpse was dragged with every circum- 
stance of ignominy and disgrace to some lonely spot, as if 
the poor creature were an outcast from both heaven and 
earth. For this purpose the summit of the Lowthers, which, 
being on the boundaries of two counties, and also of the 
lands of three lairds, was regarded as a sort of " No man's 
land," was a place chosen for the burial of suicides. The 
scene is depicted with graphic power by Dr John Brown in 
his interesting paper on " Euterkin " thus : 

"The bodies were brought from great distances all round, and, in 
accordance with the dark superstitions of the time, the unblest corpse was 
treated with curious indignity no dressing with grave-clothes, no atrie.kmy 
of the pitiful limbs the body was thrust with the clothes it was found in 
into a rude box, not even shaped like a coffin, and hurried away on some 
old shattered cart or sledge with ropes for harness. One can imagine the 
miserable procession as it slunk, often during night, through the villages, 
and past the farmsteads, every one turning from it as abhorred. Then, 
arrived at this high and desolate region, the horse was taken out, and the 
weary burden dragged with pain up to its resting place, carried head- 
foremost as in despite ; then a shallow hole dug, and the long uncouth box 
pushed in the cart and harness left to rot as accursed. The white human 
bones may sometimes be seen among the thick, short grass ; and one that 
was there more than fifty years ago remembers, with a shudder still, 
coming when crossing that hill-top upon a small outstretched hand, as 
of one crying from the ground ; this one little hand, with its thin fingers 
held up to heaven, as if in agony of supplication or despair. What a sight 
seen against the spotless sky, or crossing the disc of the waning moon !" 

20 History of Sanqukar. 

And what a commentary upon that harsh, stern time. A 
very striking example of how, actuated by a supposed 
religious feeling, men will be guilty of acts which we now 
hold to be an outrage upon natural feeling and a denial of 
all Christian charity ; for there is little doubt that a false 
religious sentiment underlay the harsh and contemptuous 
treatment to which the corpse of the poor unfortunate who> 
bereft of reason, took his life into his own hands, was sub- 
jected. Trained in a hard Calvinistic creed, the men of that 
age regarded the taking of one's own life as an interference 
with God's decree, and, therefore, as one of the most impious 
acts before high heaven of which a human being could be 
guilty. But they must not be judged too quickly when we 
consider how short is the time since an enlightened medical 
science, with a better understanding of the philosophy of the 
human mind, first taught us that these poor creatures were 
proper objects, not of hatred and scorn, but of loving and 
tender consideration, and to turn our lunatic asylums from 
what they had hitherto been, penal settlements, whose 
miserable inmates were subjected to cruelties of a fearful 
kind, into institutions where they should be regarded with 
Christian pity and sympathy, and no effort spared to irradiate 
their dark and disordered intellects with light and cheerful- 

From the summit of the Braeheads, to which reference 
has been made, the ground stretches back for the distance of 
half a mile, and on this plateau the town of Sanquhar stands. 
Immediately behind the town, the ground Takes a sudden 
rise till it reaches a height of between 700 and 800 feet, 
.whence it stretches right away to the base of the mountain 
range which runs along the northern boundary of the county. 

The tributaries of the Nith on the east side are Crawick ' 
and Mennock. Mr Glenuie, in his " Arthuriana," which 
treats of matters connected with the half-mythical, half -real 
character, King Arthur, thinks that there are traces of his 
presence in this district. In the " Book of Taliessin " 

History of Sanqukar. 21 

meation is made of Caer Ry we, probably referring to Crawick, 
a name formed from Caer Rawick. Crawick, as has already 
been said, forms the boundary between the parishes of 
Sanquhar and Kirkconnel. It rises among the hills, eight 
miles or thereby to the north-east. At first a tiny rivulet, 
it runs only a short distance till it assumes the dimensions of 
/'&, considerable stream, by the accession at the same point of 
two tributaries Spango, from the west, and Wanlock from 
the east. The rocks in the district watered by Crawick and 
Mennock are blue whinstoue, and as scarcely any of the 
surrounding lands are cultivated, but are chiefly pastoral 
hills, the water of both is particularly clear, and where broken 
and fretted by obstructing rock is lashed into foam of snowy 
whiteness. While Crawick itself, in its upper part, presents 
no features of any particular interest, the fall in its course 
being very gentle and gradual, the glen deserves more than 
a passing notice, both for its physical features and on histori- 
cal grounds. In descending the glen, the eye is first arrested 
by the bold face of Craignorth, a precipitous hill rising from 
the bed of the stream to a great height. There is a story 
connected with this hill, which, like many another from that 
period, makes considerable demands upon one's credulity. 
It is alleged that, on one occasion, when a Covenanter was 
being hotly pursued by Claverhouse, " the bloody Clavers," 
as he was accustomed to be called by the " persecuted flock," 
and could find no place of retreat where he could secrete him- 
self, turned his footsteps towards Craiguorth, and sought to 
put a stop to the pursuit by picking his way around the hill 
face. Claverhouse, who was pressing him hard, never hesi- 
tated for a moment, so the story goes, but rode his horse 
round the perilous slope. A dare-devil ride certainly, and 
requiring more than human courage, but it is incredible ; 
only it is just the sort of performance which is likely to be 
attributed by the Covenanting party to one whom they 
regarded as in league with the Evil One. 

The Crawick glen is deep and narrow, as are all the glens 

22 History of Sanquhan 

of this district, there being space at the bottom for nothing 
but the road and the stream. The hills on either side are of 
considerable height, and at various points present to the eye 
combinations at once striking and picturesque. A compre- 
hensive view of the beauties of the glen is to be obtained 
from the eastern side of Knockenhair, which is itself one of 
the most remarkable features of the locality. It is a conical- 
shaped hill, the sloping edge of both sides being of great 
regularity and terminating in a sharp peak, which is sur- 
mounted by a cairn. It stands alone, too, being quite 
detached from any of the hills by which it is surrounded, its 
appearance giving the suggestion of volcanic origin. The 
top of Knockenhair has always been a favourite site for a 
bonfire on the occasion of public rejoicings. The last instance 
of the kind was on the'comiug of age of Lord Eskdaill, son 
and heir of the then Earl of Dalkeith and present Duke of 
Buccleuch, who lost his life not long after by the accidental 
discharge of his gun while out deer-stalking in the Lochiel 
country. This hill is so situated in the valley that from its 
summit a view can be obtained of the entire course of the 
Nith through Dumfriesshire, and also, on a favourable day, 
of the Cumberland hills on the far side of the Solway, with 
the waters of the Firth gleaming in the sunshine between. 

On the opposite side of the glen from Knockenhair stands 
Carco Hill, one of the loftiest eminences, and of almost equal 
height with the Bale Hill, a little farther west. Along the 
base of Carco Hill runs the Orchard Burn, where is to be 
seen an unique specimen of boulder. It is of enormous size, 
many tons in weight, and is a rare specimen of the boulders 
or rolling-stones, which are supposed by geologists to have 
been transported on the ice during the glacial period, and 
deposited in out-of-the-way places. To use a popular 
Sanquhar phrase, this is an " in-comer," not belonging 
originally to the locality, but, if its size and situation be taken 
into account, it is likely bo remain where it is, undisturbed. 
From the foot of the Orchard Burn the interest and beautv 

History of Sanfjuhar. 23 

of the glen increase, as the stream flows onward and enters 
Nithsdale proper. It falls more rapidly as it nears the 
termination of its course, the channel becomes exceedingly 
strait and rocky, and the banks are adorned with a profusion 
of natural wood. The natural beauties of this section have 
been enhanced, too, by the hand of man. Here the Duke of 
Buccleuch has rendered a valuable service to the public by 
filling up with plantations the portions which were bare, 
thus giving a completeness to the picture. Further, he has 
constructed footpaths along both banks of the stream ; and 
bridges at the top and bottom give the freest access to 
visitors to view a scene, romantic and beautiful. For there 
is no restriction to these charming walks, known as the 
' Holm walks," so called from being in proximity to the 
Holm house, which, with its grounds, was originally a 
separate estate from the surrounding lands of His Grace, and 
was purchased by the Duke from its owner, a Mr Macnab. 
The lands on the southern bank, mentioned as having been 
planted, were held in lease by Mr Macnab from the Burgh 
of Sanqnhar, and this lease was acquired at the same time 
by the Duke. 

These Holm walks are justly esteemed the most charming 
retreat in a district singularly well-favoured in this respect. 
They wind up and down and in and out on the ledge of the 
rocky channel, and advantage has been taken of crowning 
knoll and shady nook to plant seats, where visitors can rest, 
and, sheltered at once from the scorching sun and from every 
wind that blows, have eye and ear refreshed with a display 
of nature's choicest works. In this quiet hiding place, it is 
said, Lord Douglas lay after his rapid march, with the view 
of surprising and capturing the Castle of Sanquhar, which 
was then in the hands of the English. Here he left his 
gallant band of followers till a little reconnoitring work was 
done, and a plan of attack was resolved upon. A. fuller 
treatment of this incident is reserved for its proper place. 
Descending, the stream makes a sweep round to the left 

24 History of Sanquhar. 

behind the Holm house, which is pleasantly situated at the 
head of a pretty little stretch of holm land, whence probably 
it derives its name. The house is shut in from view on all 
sides by the rising ground, except in the front, where the 
outlook is through a narrow vista away to the sources of 
Kello and Euchan, on the other side of the valley of the Nith. 
Crawick then glides smoothly past the Lawers Braes, and 
passing on the left the village of Crawick, with its woollen 
factory, corn-mill, and forge, for which it supplies the motive 
power, it heads straight for Nith, into which it falls a little 
farther down. 

Mennock, the other tributary of Nith, on the left bank, 
runs almost parallel with Crawick, three miles farther south. 
It has a course of about six miles, rising near to Wanlock- 
head, a mining village on the very borders of the parish and 
the county. The narrow glen through which it finds its way 
to Nithsdale presents features of a distinctly different type to 
those of Crawick. While the other glens in the district are 
soft and pleasing to the eye, the hills being covered with a 
rich verdure from base to summit, the mountains, for so they 
must be called, which tower up on either side the narrow 
goi'ge of Mennock are dark, stern, and rugged, and the 
scenery is truly of an impressive grandeur. 

About two miles south of Sanquhar, a country road, leaving 
the Nithsdale main highway, ascends the Mennock, and 
crossing the watershed of the two counties of Dumfries and 
Lanark, proceeds by way of Leadhills, whence falling towards 
the upper valley of the Clyde, it joins the great road between 
Carlisle and Edinburgh and Glasgow at Abington. For some 
distance the road pursues a general level, winding round the 
base of hill after hill, which slope down to the very bed of 
the stream, and offer at many points an apparently insuper- 
able barrier to all further progress. At one place the atten- 
tion is arrested by a view probably unequalled in its unique 
peculiarity. Four hills, two on each side of the glen, slope 
down alternately one behind the other, the outlines of the 

History of Sanquhar. 25 

pair on each side being almost exactly parallel. When the 
foot of Glenclauch Brae is reached, the toilsome ascent begins, 
and after the Lang-muir-side a long level track high above 
the bed of the stream -has been traversed, the rise is rapid 
and continuous, and, just before Wanlockhead is reached, the 
road passes through the " Hass," which frequently in winter 
is blocked up with snow. In truth, so high and wild is this 
Mennock road that in winter it is no uncommon occurrence 
for vehicular traffic to be entirely suspended, leaving the tele- 
graph as the only mode of communication with the outer 
world available to the inhabitants of Wanlockhead. In 
the summer season, however, its alpine scenery makes it one 
of the finest drives in the district, presenting, as it does, 
features of wild grandeur and peculiar configuration of hill 
not surpassed even in the western highlands. Some years 
ago it was visited by one who had travelled much, and his 
attention was arrested by the wonderful resemblance of this 
road to that leading up to Jerusalem. The same impression 
has been made since on the minds of others who had made 
the toilsome ascent from Joppa to the Holy City. Wanlock- 
head comes into sight quite suddenly and unexpectedly. 
For miles no human dwelling has been visible, nor sound 
heard save the murmur of the stream, the bleating of the 
sheep, and the whirr of the grouse or blackcock as, on strong 
wing, he sweeps across the glen and drops out of sight among 
the deep heather which covers the mountain sides. The 
existence of a village in such an out-of- the- world region is 
due entirely to the mineral wealth of the surrounding hills, 
which, though black and barren on the surface, and sustain- 
ing only a few sheep, contain within their bowels rich deposits 
of lead. 

From behind the Black Hill, which overlooks Wanlock- 
head, another glen, " Gleudyne," runs down to the upland 
which lies along the north-east side of the valley of the Nith. 
This glen also well deserves a visit : indeed, it has often been 
said that had Dr Brown, instead of descending Enterkin, 


26 History of Sanquhar. 

taken Glendyne, he would have been no less impressed with 
the solemn grandeur of the scene. The only road is a narrow 
footpath worn along the face of the hill side. So steep is 
the descent that the utmost care is necessary to prevent 
serious mishap. If a stone from the path be loosened by the 
foot it rolls swiftly down, and then, with a succession of 
mighty bounds, dashes itself into the burn which winds along 
the bottom like a silver thread. As the traveller descends, 
the face of the hills on the two sides continues to be quite 
precipitous, the wonder being that even the sheep can main- 
tain their foothold ; but suddenly the opening is reached, 
and with a fine sweep the beautiful glen loses itself in the 
broad expanse of brown moorland. This moorland is a 
high table-land stretching along the north-east of the town 
of Sanquhar, four miles in length and two miles in breadth, 
and as it is traversed by road and path in various directions, 
the invigorating breezes which play over its surface draw 
thither those who are in quest of health. It is pierced by 
the pretty little glen of Lochburn, a tributary of Mennock, 
the clear water of which, diverted at a point three miles 
from the town provide, after it has been filtered, an excellent 
domestic supply. The portion of the moorland which over- 
looks Sanquhar is the property of the Corporation, and is 
reached by a steep ascent called Matthew's Folly, where 
numerous seats have been provided for the convenience of 
visitors. These seats, and others placed here and there by 
the waysides, were erected out of the balance of the fund 
which was raised for the celebration of the Queen's Jubilee 
in 1887. From the top of Matthew's Folly a splendid view 
of the valley for a length of over twenty miles is obtained, 
and being so close at hand it is much frequented with this 
object. The Moor farm, belonging to the town, is let on 
lease. At one time it brought a rent of 190, but like all 
other land it has fallen of recent years in value, and now the 
rent is only 112. That, however, forms an important in 
fact, the only important part of the town's revenue since the 

History of Sauquhar. 27 

abolition of " Customs " in 1889. Any further reference to 
this and other allied topics is reserved for the chapter deal- 
ing with the municipal history of the place. 

The chief eminences in the neighbourhood are Dalpeddar, 
1291 ; Brownhill, 1544 ; Lowther, 2377 ; Auchenlone, 2068 ; 
Oaignorth, 1386 ; Auchinsow, 1378 ; Black Lorg, 2231 feet. 



A sample of the water of this well was sent several 
years ago to Professor Penney, of the Andersonian Uni- 
versity, Glasgow, who reported on it as follows : " This 
water is specially characterised by the notable quantity 
of iron which it contains. All the substances in- 
cluded in the analyses exist in the water in a state of 
perfect solution ; the water is clear, bright, and nearly 
colourless, shewing that the ferruginous ingredient is per- 
fectly dissolved. It has a styptic and astringent taste, and 
affords abundance of evidence of the presence of iron on the 
application of appropriate tests. The iron exists in the 
water in the form of the compound called the carbonate of 
iron, which consists of carbonic acid in combination with the 
protoxide of the metal. The tonic astringent, and other 
medical qualities of chalybeate waters, are too well recognised 
and appreciated by medical men to require notice in a 
chemical report. These waters are by no means uncommon. 
In regard to therapeutic strength, or medicinal power, as 
estimated from the amount of iron it contains, the Sanquhar 
chalybeate is about one-half the strength of Harrogate, 
Tunbridge, and Hartfell Spa waters, which, with the excep- 
tion of Cheltenham water, are the strongest of those above 
mentioned. This, therefore, is not a strong chalybeate, but 
from the perfect solution in which the iron exists, and from 
the purity of the water, it is, in my opinion, well worth the 

28 History of Sanquhar. 

attention of medical men." Professor Christison thus ex- 
presses his view : " The water is calculated to be service- 
able in all diseases for which simple chalybeate springs are 
at present resorted to with success." The following is 
Professor Penney 's analysis in detail : 

An imperial gallon of this water contains 14'710 grains of solid matter, 

consisting of the following ingredients : 

Grains per Gallon. 
Carbonate of Iron 2-335 

Carbonate of Lime ... ... . . ... ... 5 '650 

Carbonate of Magnesia ... .. ... ... 0*650 

Sulphate of Lime 0'600 

Chlorides of Potassium and Sodium ... ... 1-025 

Chloride of Magnesium ... ... ... ... Traces. 

Phosphates ... ... ... ... ... ... ,, 

Organic Matter 3'550 

Silica... 0-900 


Specific Gravity 1-00044 

Degree of Hardness ... ... ... .. 10 

Gases Dissolved in the Water 

Cubic Inches per Gallon. Per Cent 
Carbonic Acid 10 '020 60 '253 

Oxygen T795 10'793 

Nitrogen 4-815 28'954 

16-630 100 



)N setting before the reader the antiquities that have 
been discovered in the neighbourhood by the industry 
of persons of antiquarian tastes, chief among whom 
is Mr J. R. Wilson, of the Royal Bank, it has been 
thought fitting to put these in the form of a descrip- 
tive catalogue, as being probably the most convenient. 

1. Saen Gaer : The old fort. Perhaps the one object 
which connects with the very earliest history of the place is 
this ancient British fort, from which the name of the town, 
as elsewhere stated, is derived. It is situated on the farm 
of Broomfield, overlooking Welltrees Meadow and the rail- 
way embankment, under which lies the old well of St. Bride. 
The trench on the north side of the fort is distinctly visible, 
being a small natural ravine, and the circumference can 
easily be traced, more especially when the land is in crop, 
for then the circle of luxuriant fertility is distinctly marked. 

2. St. Bride's Well. Although this ancient well is no 
longer visible, it merits a passing notice. Simpson regards 
the name St. Bride as another form of St. Bridget, an Irish 
saint, who had for attendants nine virgins. " She was 
held in veneration by Scots, Picts, Britons, English, and 
Irish," says Leslie, " and more churches were erected to God 
in memory of her among all those nations than to any other 
saint," and if Bride and Bridget are different forms of the 
same name, as Simpson argues, Kirkbride in Durisdeer was 
one of them. It is at least a curious coincidence that, 

30 History of Sanquhar. 

according to the testimony of the old people, it was customary 
for the maidens of Sanquhar to resort on May-day to St. 
Bride's Well, where each presented nine smooth white stones 
as an offering to the Saint, which correspond in number with 
St. Bride's nine virgin attendants. 

3. Ryehill Moat. Immediately below the farmhouse of 
Ryehill there is a remnant of antiquity in the form of a 
Moat. " There was," says Chalmers, " a moat hill in every 
district of North Britain, during an age when justice was 
administered to a coarse people in the open air." These 
moats belong to the Saxon age, and were of two kinds the 
folkmote and the wittenagemote the place of assembly for 
the people and the judgment seat. Grose, in his " Antiquities," 
says of this moat " Not far from the (Sanquhar) Castle 
down the river remains the moat, or ancient court hill, of 
the former Barons of this Castle, where, by their bayliffs and 
doomsters, they were wont to give decisions upon civil and 
criminal cases agreeable to the feudal system, the bayliffs 
determining upon the former, the doomsters upon the latter. 
The Creightons, Lords of Sanquhar, were heritable Sheriffs 
of Nithsdale." Whether Ryehill Moat was the place where 
these courts were first held by the Crichtons is doubtful. 
The Ryehill portion of the barony of Sanquhar was possessed 
by the Ross family until the failure of the male line, when, 
by the marriage of Isabel Ross, the heiress of Ryehill, to 
William, son of Thomas, Lord Crichton, who flourished in 
the reign of Robert Brus, the whole of the barony came 
into the possession of the Crichtons, and it was then, in all 
likelihood, that Ryehill Moat became their place of judgment- 
It was close by the moat that the gravestones of the Rosses, 
elsewhere mentioned, were found. The Gallows Knowe, or 
place of execution, was situated not far off on the upper 
side of the road between the Castle and the Moat, but it is 
now cut through by the railway. In these rude "times they 
proceeded with their business in an expeditious and uncere- 
monious manner, and the unlucky wight upon whom doom 

History of Sanqukar. 31 

had been pronounced at the moat would be found in a short 
space of time dangling at the end of a rope on the top of 
the knowe. The gallows for male, and the pit for female 
offenders, were the forms in which capital punishment was 
then administered. The pit was filled with water, and the 
woman was put into a sack tied closely at the mouth, and 
plunged overhead, where she was left till death put an end 
to her struggles. This was the power of " pit and gallows " 
possessed by the barons, and conferred by charter upon the 
civic authorities, and, though clung to tenaciously by the 
holders, was wrested from them by the abolition of heritable 
jurisdictions in 1748. In connection with the Deemster or 
Doomster, attention may be directed to the list of lands, 
enumerated in the appendix, as belonging to the barony of 
Sanquhar, on its transfer from the Crichtons to the Douglases 
in 1630, which contains the Glenmucklochs. Now, one of 
these was, and still is, termed Deemstertown of Glenmuck- 
loch ; in all likelihood it was at one time occupied by the 
Deemster or Doomster as a pendicle of his office. 

4. Druidical Circle on Knockerihair hill, of the common 
type, having no particular history. 

5. Kemp's Castle. This is a natural promontory formed 
at the junction of the Barr Burn with the river Euchan. It 
is about two acres in extent, and rises to an altitude of thirty 
or forty feet above the level of the surrounding ground. On 
three sides it was practically unassailable, and on the fourth 
the west side it had been well protected by at least three 
entrenchments. There must have been at this end at some 
remote period a building, which probably gave its name to 
the place. The surface here is more elevated, and about 
thirty years ago a cutting was made through part of the 
debris, which revealed the fact that the site had been occu- 
pied by either a vitrified fort or a stronghold which had been 
destroyed and its walls calcined by fire. Vitreous masses, 
containing stones of various descriptions fused together, can 
be picked up on the southern bank at the roots of trees, by 

32 History of Sanquhar . 

which they have been thrown to the surface. The chief 
attraction to the visitor is the magnificent view down the 
esplanade, through the vista of trees beyond, which looks 
direct across the Nith to Sanquhar Castle. No antiquities 
have been found on its site except a quern of the pot type, 
which is in Dr Grierson's Museum at Thornhill. 

6. Lake Dwelling in Sanquhar Loch. This lacustrine or 
stockaded island is situated in the centre of the Black Loch 
on Sanquhar Muir. The loch itself is about three acres in 
extent, and is very deep, besides being surrounded by fissures 
in the moss, likewise of great depth. The island attracted 
no particular attention till about thirty years ago, when a 
man was drowned in the loch. He had been seen wandering 
in the vicinity before his disappearance, and it was supposed 
that he was under the water. It was resolved, therefore, to 
drain the loch, and on the level of the water being reduced, 
not only was the object of the search disclosed to view, but 
also an ancient canoe, dug out in rude fashion from the solid 
oak. It was removed to a garden in Sanquhar, where, by 
natural decay, it has shrunk to very small dimensions. The 
attention of antiquaries was drawn to the place, and the 
Dumfries Antiquarian Society visited and reported upon it 
in the year 1865. The following is taken from the report: 

" The extent of the surface of the island available above the water was 
forty-nine feet from east to west by forty feet from north to south. It 
would stand from six to eight feet above the exposed bottom of the loch, 
and the sides being sloped, the base was considerably wider than the 
dimensions above given. When first seen, after the bottom was laid dry, 
a few upright piles were observed, and the curving narrow passage from 
the mainland appeared somewhat raised, and was hard below the immediate 
mud deposit, as if a sort of rough causeway had been formed ; and when 
the water was at its height, or nearly level with the surface of the island, 
persons acquainted with the turn or winding of the passage could wade to 
it. The base of the slope of the island was laid or strengthened with stones, 
some of considerable size, so placed as to protect the wooden structure. 
Round the island could be seen driven piles, to which were attached strong 
transverse beams, and upon making a cut six or seven feet wide into the 
side of the island to ascertain its structure, we found a platform of about 
four feet in depth raised by transverse beams alternately across each other, 

Histoi^y of Sanqukar. 33 

and kept in position by driven piles. These last were generally self oak 
trees, but dressed and sharpened by a metal tool, some of them morticed 
at the heads, where a transverse rail or beam could be fixed. The trans- 
verse beams, of various sizes, were chiefly of birch wood. It is, therefore, 
very similar to that of some of the smaller Irish Crannogs, only that in the 
latter the platform was frequently formed of stones. The wooden platform 
rested upon a hard foundation, either the natural subsoil in the loch or 
quarry refuse. The mud prevented this being ascertained correctly, but 
it was most probably the former, as the hard subsoil was soon struck when 
deepening the outfall. On the top of the wooden platform was a layer, of 
from twelve to eighteen inches thick, of, apparently, chips or debris from 
some neighbouring quarry of white or grey sandstone, upon which the 
vegetable mould now supporting the rank vegetation had accumulated. 
On the surface of the island there were some indications of building, but 
on examination these were found to be only the erection of curlers for fire, 
or the protection of their channel-stones when not in use. No remains of 
any kind were found on the island nor around it, but, except on the 
passage from the mainland, the mud was so deep and soft as to prevent 
effectual search. Neither have we any record of any other remains being 
found in or near the loch except the canoe already alluded to. It is formed 
out of a single oak tree, sixteen feet in length by three feet broad at the 
widest part, at the prow only one foot ten inches. It is at present lying 
exposed to weather, and for protection a coating of pitch was lately given 
to it. It will thus ere long decay and be lost. The burgh of Sauquhar 
should endeavour to protect their curious and valuable relic. It would 
easily sling from the roof of one of the public rooms." 

During the work undertaken by the Town Council a few 
years ago, with the view of constructing a curling pond 
there, the passage from the mainland to the island, referred to 
in the above report, was more thoroughly inspected, and the 
gangway was found to be supported by piles. There was at 
the same time laid bare a massive stockade of large trunks 
of trees, set perpendicularly and secured together at the 
bottom by mortices, through which were driven smaller 
trees, which bound the whole together and kept it in 
position. There is in Grierson's Museum, at Thornhill, a 
stone celt of rude type which was found on the margin of 
the Loch. 

7. Remains of Ancient Strongholds. These belong to a 
later than the Roman period, and their sites and their names 
are Clenrae Castle, near the March with Lanarkshire ; 


34 History of Sanquhar. 

Castle Gilmour, Dear to the present farmhouse of Auchen- 
gruith ; Goosehill Castle, on the march between that farm 
and South Mains, above the road, where some time ago a 
number of old gold coins were found ; the remains of the 
ancient stronghold of Ryehill, in the wood adjoining the 
farmhouse there ; at Drambuie, in the west of the parish, 
where traces of ancient buildings exist north of the present 
house, and a stone bearing the date 1513, and also a coat of 
arms of ancient design were found. 

8. Cairns. There are no cairns of great dimensions in 
the parish. In the upper reaches of Euchan there is a 
small cairn near the river which has been cut through, but 
revealed nothing of interest. About a mile from Corsebank, 
in a little holm between the road and the stream, the atten- 
tion of the passer-by is attracted by a stone set up in the 
form of a pillar or monument. It is about three feet in 
height, and tradition says it marks the place where a battle 
was fought between the men of Crawford and Nithsdale. 
Be that as it may, the notable fact is that this is a boulder 
of Hornblende, and, with the exception of a large flat speci- 
men of the same kind on Corsebank-burn, is the only one of 
the kind that has been observed in Nithsdale. In all proba- 
bility it, like the Orchard Burn stone mentioned in the 
Topography, is a glacial stone, whose parent rock lies in 
the Grampians. 

9. The Deil's or Picts' Dyke. This interesting relic of 
antiquity traverses the whole of the south-west of Scotland 
from the head of Lochryan, and is supposed to connect with 
the Catrail, which means the dividing fence, in the border 
counties. There is little doubt that it is the remains of a 
great territorial division between the different tribes that 
inhabited this region. In this parish it enters at Drumbuie 
farm, on the south side of the Nith, proceeds south-eastward 
till it leaves the parish at the farm of Burnmouth, in the 
parish of Durisdeer. There are vestiges of entrenchments 
or fortifications to be seen at various points along its route, 

History of Sa/nquhar, 35 

particularly at South Mains, and at Kelloside, in Kirkconnel. 
The former is of a square form, and may have been a Roman 
encampment at a later period. 

10. Mention may here be made of the Chapel Yard of 
Dalpeddar, which indicates the existence there at one time 
of a chapel ; and the name of a streamlet in the vicinity, 
" The Brewster's Burn," is further proof, for the constitution 
of a Saxon hold was a castle, a kirk or chapel, a mill, a 
smithy, and a brew-house. The familiar pronunciation of 
the name " Dapether " points to its ancient origin, carrying 
us back to the Peithwyr, who were the Picts of Galloway. 

11. At the foot of Glenclauch Brae 011 Mennock Road, 
near the roadside, on a flat piece of land at the base of the 
hill, there is a relic of antiquity in the shape of a large cross 
formed on the ground of stones and earth. On the same 
place is erected a stell or fold for sheep in winter. This is 
called the Cross Kirk of Mennock, and is believed to mark 
the site of an ancient chapel. This is only conjecture. 
Certainly no better site could have been chosen by the 
monks for practising their holy rites, for in that age there 
was no road up the pass, and the situation would be one of 
perfect seclusion of unbroken peace. 

12. Domestic Architecture. Some of the houses in 
Sanquhar are of considerable antiquity. One in the vicinity 
of the Town Hall bears at the eaves on the west the date 
1626 in raised figures, and at the end the initials ^ 
Another on the Corseknowe shews good examples of bottle 
moulding of an ancient type ; the walls are about four feet 
thick, the mortar used having been clay. This house, it is 
said, at one time served as the jail, and if that be so, it 
points to a date anterior to the erection of the old Town 
Hall and Tolbooth. There are other houses in the town 
shewing mouldings of a later but still ancient date, and the 
walls of several, when cleared of whitewash and plaster, give 
indications of the entrance having been obtained to the 
upper storey by an outside stair. Many houses in Sanquhar 

36 History of Sanquhar. 

are described in their titles as " high and laigh," according 
to their elevation. One opposite the Royal Bank was called 
" The Gairland Great House," while the Bank itself stands on 
the site of what was once the town-house of the Crichtons, 
and where, as is elsewhere stated, Queen Mary was enter- 
tained when she was on her flight from the field of Langside. 
In former days there were many small lairdships in the 
neighbourhood The Holm, Knockenstob, Carcomains, Carco- 
side, Orchard, Carco, Castle Robert, and Gairland, among 
others, having all been separately owned, and some at least 
of their proprietors possessed town residences. At the demoli- 
tion of old houses there are frequently seen specimens of 
ancient masonry, a notable example being the house at 

13. Sanquhar Cross. The ancient Cross of the burgh, to 
which the famous declarations were affixed, was situated at 
the Crossknow, now called the Corseknowe. It was a slender 
pillar, not more than nine inches in diameter, and was sur- 
mounted by a plain capital, which now adorns the apex of 
the porch of the Free Church in St. Mary Street. The 
stone in front of the Cross, upon which Cameron stood when 
he read his declaration, was subsequently removed to a 
slaughter-house in the Back Road, where it was sunk in the 
floor, and a ring attached for securing the animals. What a 
profanation ! It has now disappeared probably when the 
place was converted into a weaving shop, and the floors were 
sunk to allow room for the play of the "treddles." 

The following is a catalogue of the principal relics of bye- 
gone ages which have been picked up in this locality : 

Stone Axe. Found on Ulziesitle in 1884, with five incised lines on edge, 
and one ornamental course on face. Length, 10 inches ; weight, 6^ Ibs. 

Stone Hammer, of diamond shape. Found on South Mains in 1850, 
beautifully perforated, and believed to be unique in shape. Measures 4 
by 3 inches. 

Stone Hammer, perforated. Found in Crawick in 1875. Measures 3 
by 2 inches. 

History of Sanquhar. 37 

Stone Hammer, half perforated. Found in Kello in 1886. Measures 4 
by 3 inches. 

Stone, slightly perforated. Found at Birkburn in 1888. Measures 34 
by 3 inches. 

Celt. Found at Greenhead in 1882. 5 inches long, of Crawick grey 
stone, beautifully polished. 

Celt, adze-shaped, of claystone. Found at Eliock Grange in 1881. 5 
inches long, with polished, sharp edge. 

Celt, also of claystone. Found at Wellstrand in 1889. 11 inches long. 

Stone Maul. Found at Sanquhar Bowling Green in 1889. 8 inches long. 

Charm King of Shale. Found at Eliock Grange in 1881. 4 inches in 

Cannon Ball of Malleable Iron. -Found in Deer Park, Sanquhar, in 
1830. 2 Ibs. hi weight. 

Part of Runic Stone. Found in dyke at New Road, Sanquhar. 

Groin Stone of Arch in old Parish Church, and several well-preserved 
pieces of the Mullions of the windows of the old Church. 

[The above are all in the collection belonging to Mr J. R. 
Wilson, Royal Bank, Sanquhar.] 

Stone Celt. Found at Black Loch. In Grierson's Museum, Thornhill. 

Cannon Ball, same as above. Found also in Deer Park. In the posses- 
sion of Miss Bramwell, St. Helens. 

Arrow Head, with barb awanting. Found at Ryehill. In the possession 
of Mr T. B. Steuart, Auchentaggart. 

Large Putting-stone, known as "Strong Glenmanna's putting-stone," he 
having used it at sheep handlings at Glenwhern, whence it was removed to 
Craigdarroch, and is now in the possession of Mr Paterson. 

Part of Runic Stone. Found in the district by the late Rev. Dr Simpson. 
Now in the possession of the Rev. James Hay Scott. 

Pre- Reformation Tombstone, embellished with cross-and-scissors device ; 
built into the east wall of the Churchyard. 

Support of Thruch-stone from Abraham Crichton's burying-place ; also 
built into the same wall. 

Carved Head. Built into wall of house known as " The Ark," near the 
Townfoot ; believed to have been removed from the ancient hospital of 

Several Carved Stones in roadside dyke on Castle Farm ; also believed to 
be from said hospital, together with one at courtyard at Castle Mains. 

38 History of Sdnquhar. 

QUERNS. 1. Portable Type. Specimens are in possession of Mr Wilson, 
Rev. Mr Scott, and Mr Lewis. 

2. Hand Qwrns. Some of these are of considerable size, and 

are slightly ornamented. The finest specimens are in Mr 
Wilson's possession, and are yet fit for use. The upper 
stones of such querns are quite common, but only two of 
the lower have ever been recovered in the parish. 

3. Pot Querm or Kneading Troughs. These were formerly 

used for detaching the awns from barley and other 
grains, and Mr Wilson states that in this parish alone 
he has seen no less than 75 examples. 

Stone Weights. These were formerly hung on weavers' beams to keep 
the web on the stretch. There are many to be seen in and around 
Sanquhar, and are not to be confounded with the round stones with iron 
rings attached, formerly and still used as weights at farmhouses. These 
latter still exist, ranging in weight from 7 Ibs. to 70 Ibs., but they are fast 


the Roman period, the western clan of the Selgova? 
inhabited Annandale, Nithsdale, and Eskdale in 
Dumfriesshire ; the east part of Galloway, as far as 
the river Dee, which was their western boundary ; 
and they had the Solway Firth for their southern 
limit. The British name of the Selgovce is supposed 
to be descriptive of their country, which lay on a dividing 
water, and which, by the new settlers who were introduced 
during the middle ages, was denominated the Solway. The 
Nid or Nith, like the Nidus or Nith in Wales, derives its 
appropriate name from the British Nedd, which is pronounced 
Neth, and which signifies, in the Cambro-British speech, 
circling or revolving. 

After the Romans had withdrawn from their occupation 
of North Britain, as of the remainder of the island, the 
Danish Vikinger, sallying out from Northumberland in 875 
A.D., wasted Galloway, which of old included Dumfriesshire. 
The Saxon plantation had always been inconsiderable, and 
the Saxon authority became extinct at the end of the eighth 
century. This incited the settlement of a new colony from 
Ireland, and the settlers of this period were followed by 
fresh swarms from the Irish hive during the ninth and tenth 
centuries. These Cruithne, as they were called, were joined 
by the kindred Scots of Kintire, and it was these Irish 
colonists which, Chalmers is of opinion, assumed the name of 
Picts, as seen in the chronicles of the eleventh and twelfth 

40 History of Sanquhar. 

centuries, Picts signifying painted, and being the well-known 
name of the genuine Picts of Scotland. 

It is curious to remark how much the names of places 
within the peninsula bounded by the Irish Sea and the Firths 
of Solway arid the Clyde correspond with the history of the 
people who successively colonized within its limits. The 
paucity of Anglo-Saxon names in Dumfriesshire, exclusive 
of the pure English appellations of modern times, proves that 
the Saxons never settled within Galloway in any numerous 
bodies for any length of years. The Irish settlers completely 
occupied the whole extent of the peninsula, and mingling 
in every place with the enfeebled Britons, whose speech they 
understood, and amalgamating with the still fewer Saxons, 
whose language they rejected as unintelligible, the Scoto- 
Irish imposed their names on many places which still remain 
on the county maps. 

It is perhaps more difficult to settle, with equal precision, 
the several epochs at which tlie Saxon settlers sat down in 
Dumfriesshire among the Scoto-Irish. A few Saxons did 
settle in this district among the British Selgova? during the 
seventh and eighth centuries, but the most extensive and 
permanent colonisation in Dumfriesshire took place in a 
subsequent age. The occupation by the Scoto-Irish must 
have extended pver several centuries, for we find that in the 
reign of David I. (1124-1153) Nithsdale still remained in 
the hands of Dunegal of Stranith, a Scoto-Irish chief, and 
was then inhabited by a Scoto-Irish people, who long enjoyed 
their own laws. This Dunegal ruled from the Castle of 
Morton, the ruins of which still remain, the whole of the 
strath from Corsancone to Criffel. On his death, his posses- 
sions were divived among his four sons, of whom only two, 
Randolph (or Rodolph) and Duvenal, are known to history. 
Randolph, the eldest, inherited the largest share of the 
patrimonial estates, and, like his father, had his residence 
at Morton Castle. He had three sons, the youngest of 
whom, Dovenald, received from his father Sanchar (so it was 

History of Sanquhar. 41 

then spelt), Ellioc, and other lands, and was slain, while quite 
a youth, at the ''Battle of the Standard." One of Dovenald's 
sons was Edgar, who lived in the reigns of William the Lion 
and Alexander II. The children of this chief adopted the 
surname of Edgar for the family one of the earliest recorded 
instances of the adoption of a surname in Nithsdale. One 
of his sons, Richard, owned the Castle and half of the barony 
of Sanquhar, together with the lands of Eliock, by charter 
from Robert Brus, the other half being owned by William 
de Crichton through marriage with Isobel, daughter of 
Robert de Ross (who was related to the Lord of the Isles) ; 
and, to his grandson Donald, David II., who began to reign 
on the death of his father Robert the Bruce in 1329, 
granted the captainship of the MacGowans, a numerous clan 
of the Scoto-Irish then located in the district. The posses- 
sions of the Edgars in Nithsdale were very extensive, for we 
find that AfFrica, the daughter of Edgar, in the reign of 
Alexander II. owned the lands of Dunscore, a place there 
still bearing the name of Edgarstown. Edgar is still a 
common name in Dumfriesshire, and from this ancient stock 
some families in the neighbourhood of Sanquhar can still 
trace their descent, the common progenitor of all the Edgars 
having been the son of Dovenald, the Scoto-Irish chief. 
Chalmers' Caledonia. 

Prior to the twelfth century, a good deal of obscurity 
surrounds the history and condition of the country. Except- 
ing a few leading facts, much of the so-called history is 
merely the collected opinions of various historians. These 
opinions rest frequently on very slender foundation, being at 
the best nothing more than shrewd conjecture, and, to a con- 
siderable extent, contradictory of each other. The law of the 
land, too, was an unwritten law, and consisted simply of the 
established usages and customs of the people. From the date 
mentioned, "the laws of England and Scotland," Lord Kaimes 
says, " were originally the same, almost in every particular." 
The beginning of the twelfth century marks a new era in the 


42 History of Sanquhar. 

history of the country. Then it was that the feudal system, 
which in a modified form still prevails among us, was first 
established ; the land, which previously had been the subject 
merely of grants, was now secured to its possessors by charters, 
and the administration of justice, however rude and imperfect 
in form, was provided for by the appointment of Sheriffs, 
whose duties, if not at first, at least afterwards, were military 
as well as judicial, as we shall see in the Chapter on the 
Crichton family. " These Sheriffs," we have it on the 
authority of Caledonia, " the Celtic people, both in Ireland 
and Scotland, concurred in hating." This is not surprising, 
however, as human nature at all times is apt to rebel against 
unaccustomed restraints. The jurisdiction of these Sheriffs 
was not confined to shires, but extended over certain defined 
territories, ten in number. The idea of shire, belonging to the 
Saxons, was unknown to the races that then inhabited 

The Norman colonisation which, beginning in the reign of 
Edgar, was carried out so extensively in the propitious reign 
of David I. (1124), exerted a wonderful influence on the 
settlement of the country. Society now began to assume 
definite shape and form. The colonists were English barons, 
who brought with them a host of vassals. These barons 
were attracted across the border in the year 1124, when 
David came to the throne. He had been educated at the 
Court of Henry I., and had married an English countess. 
The wonder which one would naturally feel at persons of 
rank and influence migrating from a richer to a poorer 
from a comparatively civilised to a semi-barbarous country 
(for the pressure of over population was not then felt) 
disappears when we consider the connection which the 
reigning monarch had had with their own Court. David, 
who was a wise monarch, probably held out such promises 
and inducements as were sufficiently enticing to lead these 
settlers to surrender certain social advantages for others of a 
material kind to make the same kind of sacrifice which 

History of Sanquhar. 43 

colonists in these days have to undertake. The king was most 
liberal in his treatment of the colonists in the distribution of 
lands to them and their followers. The most conspicuous of 
these settlers was Hugh Moreville, who came from Burg, in 
Cumberland. He acquired vast possessions in both the east 
and the west country, and was a great favourite with David, 
who created him Constable of Scotland, which office was 
hereditary in his family for generations. He was the founder 
of the monastery of Dryburgh, and died in 1162. His 
grandson, William, having died without issue, the vast family 
estates passed into other hands through the marriage of his 
sister Elena to Roland, the Lord of Galloway. Their son, 
Alan, was one of the most powerful barons in Britain. He 
had no son, and his three daughters were married to English 
nobles Elena to the Earl of Winchester, Christian to the 
son of the Earl of Albemarle, and Devorgil to John Baliol, 
the lord of Barnard Castle. By these marriages there was 
introduced into Galloway a great number of English settlers, 
much to the discontent of the natives, but greatly to the 
ultimate advantage of the country. Several persons who 
were surnamed Ros, from the north of England, settled under 
the Morevilles in the district of Cunningham. Godfrey de 
Ros acquired from Richard Moreville the lands of Stewarton, 
in the possession of which he was succeeded by his son, James 
de Ros, and these are the progenitors of the Rosses of Halk- 
head, Ros Lord Ros, Ros of Tarbet in Cunningham, and Ros 
of Sanquhar in Nithsdale. Here then we have the root of 
the second of the four great families the Edgars, the Rosses, 
the Crichtons, and the Douglases who for centuries bore 
sway in Upper Nithsdale. The Rosses were a family of high 
distinction. Robert de Ros, who was sent to Scotland by 
King John, married Isabel, the natural daughter of King 
William, in 1191, with whom he obtained a manor in 
Scotland. A descendant of his was one of the unsuccessful 
competitors for the Scottish crown in 1291. 

These Rosses owned the lands of Ryehill, about a mile 

44 History o/ Sanquhar. 

to the south-east of Sanquhar, and built a stronghold on 
their estate, of which traces still remain. In proof of the 
worthy character of this family, and the esteem in which 
they were held by their neighbours, Simpson quotes the 
inscription on one of the gravestones in their ancient burying 
ground, which ran thus 



Hiu LYS 




and further assumes that it refers to three different persons 
of the same name. Now with regard to the character of Sir 
John Ross, whether one or three of the name, too much 
stress need not be laid upon evidence of this kind. In all 
likelihood the people of that, just as of this, generation had 
a regard to the adage "De mortuis nil nisi bonum." Besides, 
this inscription would likely be composed by a member of 
the family, and its testimony cannot therefore be accepted as 
quite unbiassed. Neither to our mind is the assumption 
that it refers to three different persons justified. We incline 
rather to the belief that it refers to one and the same person, 
and that the writer of the inscription adopted the well-known 
figure of a climax to emphasize the gudeness of this Sir 
John Ross " Their place of interment," Simpson says, 
" appears to have been exactly to the east side of the moat 
of Ryehill, and close to the foot of the bank, as it was here 
the gravestones were found." 

The Edgars and Rosses were thus contemporaries. The 
former, the more important of the two families, possessed the 
Castle and the larger portion of the barony of Sanquhar, the 
latter having their headquarters at Ryehill, a place of 
altogether minor importance. By the failure, however, of 

History of Sanquhar. 45 

the male line of the Rosses, and the marriage of Isabel de 
Ross, the heiress of Ryehil], to William de Crichton, there 
was introduced into Nithsdale a family which was destined 
to play an important part in the history of Sanquhar and 
the surrounding district. So bound up, indeed, was the 
name of Crichton with Sanquhar during a period of over 300 
years, and so distinguished a part did the Crichtous play, 
that it has been deemed fitting to devote a separate chapter 
to their career. 

Inglistown, a corruption, according to Chalmers, of English - 
town, marked the place where these English colonists at first 
settled. Now, as there is an Inglestown in Durisdeer, in 
Moniaive, in Irongray, and elsewhere, it is evident that the 
vale of Nith enjoyed its full share of the benefits which 
flowed from the introduction of these settlers. There were 
thus imported into Scotland the elements of a civilisation to 
which she had been a stranger the order of society was of 
a distinctly higher kind than had hitherto obtained, and the 
native races were taught improved methods of agriculture 
and other manual arts. Great benefit was likewise received 
by the settlement throughout the lowlands of Scotland, 
about the same period, of a large number of Flemings. 
These Flemings, driven from their own country by force of 
circumstances, repaired in great numbers to England in the 
reigns of William Rufus and Henry I. In 1154, however, 
Henry II. banished the Flemings and other foreigners who 
had come to England in the previous reign, and th'e banished 
Flemings fled across the border and settled in the southern 
parts of Scotland. The skill of this people in weaving and 
textile industries of all kinds was known all over the Con- 
tinent, and the trade of the Low countries in manufactured 
goods of this description was enormous. In this way the 
foundation was laid of that industrial skill and activity which, 
in these later times, afford employment to a large proportion 
of the population, and have developed a large trade in staple 
goods in the manufacturing towns along the Imiks of the 

46 History of Sanquhar. 

Tweed, Nith, and other rivers in the South of Scotland. 
But the immigrants from the Low countries embraced not 
merely handicraftsmen, but also persons of rank soldiers of 
fortune who had distinguished themselves in the wars, and 
whose services were rewarded with grants of lands which 
they well knew how to cultivate. The influence of these 
settlers must have strengthened that of the Anglo-Normans, 
who came across the border at an earlier period, in imbuing 
the minds of the native population with improved ideas of 
agricultural processes, and thus of advancing the material 
and social progress of the country. 

Some of the principal towns of Scotland, as Edinburgh, 
Berwick, Roxburgh, &c., had their rise prior to this period, 
but to the Anglo-Norman settlers and their characteristic 
habits is due the existence of quite a number of smaller towns 
or villages, which now began to spring up all over the 
country. Being of a military race they, on settling in any 
locality, first busied themselves with the erection of a strong- 
hold, around which their followers gathered, thus forming a 
hamlet and sometimes a town. 

Another important factor in the settlement of the country, 
and the civilisation of its inhabitants, is to be found in the 
erection of so many religious houses. The monks were 
drawn chiefly from England. Then were built those 
magnificent abbeys and ecclesiastical edifices, the ruins of 
which bear witness to this day of the architectural skill and 
taste of their founders, and the patient labour bestowed by 
the monks on the beautification of God's house. The Crown 
was generous in the gift of lands and revenues for the main- 
tenance of the religious houses. The common notion of 
Protestants that the monk was a fat, lazy priest who filled 
up the measure of an easy-going life between religious duties 
and observances, performed in a spiritless and perfunctory 
manner, and the gratification of his fleshly appetites, in what- 
ever degree it may have correctly described the monk of a 
later period, is certainly misapplied to those of this early 

History of Sanquhar. 47 

age. It is well known that, besides having a monopoly of 
the learning of that time, these priests thought it no degrada- 
tion of their office to learn to become skilled in all the then 
known arts and industries, and that, into whatever country 
they penetrated and obtained a footing, they, besides using 
all diligence in the propagation of the faith of which they 
were the professed teachers, were equally diligent in spread- 
ing abroad among the people a knowledge of those arts 
through which alone they could be raised from the wretched 
state of semi-barbarism in which they were too often sunk. 
Such were the influences which co-operated at this early age 
in introducing into Scotland some measure of civilisation. 
Still, they have not succeeded in obliterating the proof of 
the Celtic origin of the early inhabitants, and of the fact 
that Celtic blood runs in the veins of the Scottish people to 
this day. As Chalmers remarks " Many children of the 
Celtic people have been, no doubt, converted from their 
maternal Celticism to the artificial Gothicism of the Saxon 
settlers ; they have been induced, by interest, to imitate the 
Saxon manners ; they may have been obliged, by discipline, 
to speak the Teutonic language. Yet at the end of seven 
centuries the Saxon colonists and their descendants have 
not been able, with the aid of religious prejudice and the 
influence of predominating policy, to annihilate the Celtic 
people, to silence the Gaelic tongue within Scotland, nor to 
obliterate the Celtic topography, which all remain the in- 
dubitable vouchers of the genuine history of North Britain." 

The name Sanquhar, or Sanchar as it was formerly 
spelt, is generally allowed to be a compound of two Celtic 
words Saen, Caer signifying "old fort," pointing un- 
doubtedly to the existence of an ancient British stronghold 
at the time of the Scoto-Irish invasion in the ninth and 
tenth centuries. The site of this old fort is believed to have 
been the knoll immediately behind the present farm-house of 
Broomfield : a few hundred yards north of the town. The town 

48 History of Sanquhar. 

of Sanquhar doubtless owed its origin to the existence of this 
fort. This was, indeed, the origin of many of the small country 
towns, both then and during the subsequent Anglo-Norman 
colonisation in the twelfth century, the people during those 
rude arid unsettled times gathering for protection under the 
friendly shadow of a stronghold. In charters and other 
documents the name receives various forms of spelling 
Sanchair, Sandier, Sanchar, &c., but in the early part of 
the seventeenth century the " ch " is changed into " quh," 
with the same sound, and that form the name has ever since 
retained. We confess to a wish that this change had never 
taken place, the older form being simpler, and having the 
advantage of a closer resemblance to the original. '\ here 
are other two places, but not towns one in Morayshire and 
the other in Ayrshire of the same name with the same deri- 
vation. The town consisted simply of mud hovels and huts 
of wood, with a covering of thatch. There are old houses 
still standing which, if not built wholly of such materials, 
have had in their construction clay used as mortar, and the 
thatching with straw was up to the present generation a 
common enough method of covering the roof. To this style 
of covering succeeded for a time the use of thin layers of 
freestone called " flags," but, though these were rain-proof 
and did not, like the thatch, require frequent renewing, they 
were of great weight, and put a severe strain upon the frame- 
work of the roof. Both have now given way to slates. The 
thatched roof was undoubtedly troublesome to keep in order, 
and was liable in a severe storm of wind to " tirling," but it 
had the advantage over slates straw being a bad conductor 
of heat of rendering the houses cool in summer and 
warm in winter. The thatch, too, gave an air of pictur- 
esqueness to the cottage, which is lacking in the bare slate, 
while the sparrow chirped and the swallow twittered beneath 
its eaves. 

In the reign of Robert the Bruce, the Castle and half of 
the barony of Sanquhar were held by the Edgars ; but, as is 

History of Sanquhar. 49 

stated in the chapter on the Crichtons, they were purchased 
from them by Crichton, and the Castle became the residence 
of the Crichtons, and continued so during the long period 
down to 1630, when it was in turn sold to the Douglases of 
Drurnlanrig. After the battle of Bannockburn, and the 
establishment of Scotland's independence, the Edgars of 
Sanquhar, Elliock, &c., were confirmed in their possessions. 
We infer from this that they had remained true to their 
country's cause, for many barons who had proved traitors, at 
this time had their estates forfeited to the Crown. During 
the war of independence, Sanquhar Castle was captured by 
the English, who placed a garrison within its walls. The 
aid of the gallant Douglas was besought, who, in response to 
the appeal, made a secret and rapid march with his followers 
down Crawick, where he placed them in ambush in tl}e dark 
recesses of that glen not far from the Castle until a plan had 
been devised for its capture. This proved a clever piece of 
strategy, and was completely successful. The following is 
the account of the affair as it appears in Godscroft's history 
of the Douglases, published in 1644 : 

Of William the Hardie (or Long legge), the fourth William and seventh 
Lord of Dour/fa*. 

" To Hugh did succeed his son William, who for his valour and courage 
is distinguished by the addition of William the hardie ; he is named also 
William long legge by reason of his tall and goodly stature, having been 

a very personable man. He was twice married Concerning 

himself we find in the English Chronicle that when King Edward the first 
took the town of Berwick (in the year 1295) he was Captain of the Castle 
there, and not being able to resist and hold out, the Towne being in the 
enemies' hands, he rendred the place with himself also a prisoner, where 
he remained until the warres were ended by the yeelding of John Baliol 
to King Edward. During the time of his captivitie he was moved to marry 
this English Lady, that so he might be drawn to favour the King's pre- 
tensions in conquering of Scotland. But his matching did not alter his 
affection towards his native countrey, nor brake his constancie in per- 
forming his dutie to it. 

"Wherefore when he heard that William Wallace was risen up, and had 
taken open banner against the English, he joyned with him, by which 
accession of forces Wallace army was much increased and strengthened ; 


50 History of Sanquhar. 

yet they were not always together, but according to the occasion and as 
opportunity did offer they did divide their companies, and went to several 
places, where they hoped to get best advantage of the enemie, and where 
they needed no great Annie, but some few companies at once. In these 
adventures Lord William recovered from the English the Castles of 
Disdiere and Samvheire. The manner of his taking the Castle of Sanwheire 
is said to have been thus : There was one Anderson that served the 
Castle, and furnished them with wood and fewell, who had daily access to 
it upon that occasion. The Lord Douglas directs one of his trustiest and 
stoutest servants to him to deale with him, to find some means to betray 
the Castle to him, and to bring him within the gates onely. Anderson, 
either perswaded by entreatie or corrupted for money, gave my Lord's 
servant (called Thomas Dickson) his apparell and carriages, who, comming 
to the Castle, was let in by the porter for Anderson. Dickson presently 
stabbed the porter, and giving the signall to his Lord, who lay neere by 
with his Companies, set open the gates, and received them into the Court. 
They being entered, killed the Captaine, and the whole English garrison, 
and so remained master of the place. The Captain's name was Beuford, 
a kinsman to his own Ladie, who had oppressed the country that lay near 
to him very insolently. One of the English that had been in the Castle 
escaping, went to other garrisons that were in other Castles and Townes 
adjacent, and told them what had befallen his fellowes, and withall 
informed them how the Castle might be recovered. Whereupon joyning 
their forces together, they came and besieged it. The Lord Douglas, 
finding himself straightened and unprovided of necessaries for his defence, 
did secretly convey his man Dickson out at a postern or some hidden 
passage, and sent him to William Wallace for aid. Wallace was then in 
the Lennox, and hearing of the danger Douglas was in made all the haste 
he could to come to his relief. The English, having notice of Wallace 
approach, left the siege and retired toward England, yet not so quickly 
but that Wallace, accompanied with Sir John Grahame, did overtake them, 
and killed 500 of their number ere they could pass Dalswynton. By these 
and such like means Wallace, with his assistance, having beaten out the 
English from most part of their strengths in Scotland, did commit the care 
and custody of the whole countrey, from Drumlenrigge to Aire, to the 
charge of the Lord Douglas." 

The founder of that branch of the Douglases which bore 
sway in this district and gave rise to the house of Drumlanrig 
was William, the natural son of Archibald the Grim. He 
was the first Lord of Nithsdale, and in spite of the taint of 
illegitimacy, he, by his virtues and bravery, so commended 
himself to the favour of his Sovereign, Robert II., that he 
preferred him for a son-in-law over all the other young 

History of Sanquhar. 51 

noblemen of the kingdom, bestowing upon him the hand of 
his daughter Egidia or Giles, esteemed the most beautiful 
woman of that age. The King conferred upon Douglas the 
Lordship of Nithsdale and the Sheriffship of Dumfries, the 
office of Warden of the Western Border, and those of Justice 
and Chamberlain, besides an annual pension of three hundred 
pounds sterling, to be paid out of the great customs of certain 
burghs. There were minor branches of the Douglas family 
at Coshogle, Pinyrie, Dalveen, and other places in Nithsdale. 
This first Lord of Nithsdale was the renowned Black Douglas 
of Scottish history. " Tall and of commanding presence, he 
was also unusually bony and muscular, being, however, 
graceful and well proportioned."* He was a gallant soldier, 
stout-hearted and resolute in action, and many of the 
exploits with which he is credited by tradition are so extra- 
ordinary as to bear an air of romance. He had an arm and 
hand, a blow from which was like that of a sledge-hammer ; 
and instances are given of his freeing himself from the 
custody of his guards by suddenly striking out right and left 
with his clenched fists. His dark and swarthy complexion 
gave to his countenance an air of martial sternness, and pro- 
cured for him the appellation by which he is distinguished 
from the rest of his illustrious race. In the many encounters 
which in his time took place between the English and Scots 
along the Border, the Black Douglas played a conspicuous 
part. His tall dark figure was to be seen in the forefront 
of the fight, and so great was his prowess in the field that 
in time he became a perfect terror to the enemies of his 
country. The stories of his doughty deeds were told at 
many a fireside, and so impressed the imaginations of the 
simple-minded country people that English mothers along 
the Border were accustomed to frighten their disobedient 
children into submission by threatening them with the 
apparition of the Black Douglas. 

The whole of this district was at this time densely wooded, 
* Dumfries Magazine. 

52 History of Sanquhar. 

the inhabitants maintaining themselves more by fishing and 
the chase than by agricultural husbandry. The style of 
living was of the most primitive kind, and their wants were 
few. The remains of the forest which filled the valley are 
to be seen in the mosses in all directions, but there is reason 
to believe that in the immediate neighbourhood of the town, 
and in the vicinity of the Castle, there was an opening which, 
at a later date, after the Castle had been built, a large 
portion of it was turned into a " deer park " well stocked 
with deer. The three large fields on the south of the town are 
still called the Deer Parks. This deer park, many acres in 
extent, was surrounded by a beautifully built stone dyke or 
wall seven feet high, which was surmounted by a loop-holed 
coping. A large part of this dyke still remains, and, till quite 
recently, some of the coping had not been removed. The last 
reference we can find to the deer is contained in a letter 
from the Earl of Queensberry, addressed to his cousin of 
Dornock, and dated from Edinburgh, 31st August, 1688, in 
which directions are given for the killing of two bucks, the 
one white and the other brown. (See end of Chapter.) In 
further proof of the existence of the wood and of its termina- 
tion here may be adduced the name given to houses at the 
west end of the town, which were only recently demolished. 
These houses were called the " warld's end " a corruption 
of the " wold's end " wold in the ancient tongue meaning 
" wood." 

The state of society at this period was of a rude and semi- 
barbarous character. There were, first, the barons, the 
descendants of individuals who, chiefly by their military 
services, had commended themselves to the Crown, by whom, 
in reward for such services, they had had bestowed on them 
the gift of lands, on condition that they, with their retainers, 
should render services of a like kind whenever occasion 
demanded. The possession of the land carried with it an 
authority absolute and uncontrolled. The barons dispensed 
what they were pleased to call justice, which, in too many 

History of Sanquhar. 53 

cases, meant only the expression of their own will or caprice. 
In truth, the common people were simply slaves bondsmen, 
or " villeyns," as they were called. At the mercy, therefore, 
of lords, ignorant and intolerant, and of a brutal and savage 
nature, they were in a most miserable condition. There 
was, however, a middle class consisting of those who held 
the land under the barons; some of whom, it appears, paid 
rent and corresponded to the modern farmer, whilst the bulk 
were liable to military service with their over-lord. The 
laws of the Burrows were more favourable. According to 
them any bondsman, except the King's, who resided for a 
year and a day within a "burrow" was entitled to his freedom. 
The chartularies of the period afford numerous proofs of the 
existence of this condition of servitude, wherein the number 
of villeyns is given as. belonging to the lands transferred, 
and they contain notice of cases where some of these villeyns 
were released from their servitude. The practice was even 
more general in England than in Scotland. " Some of the 
greater Abbeys," Walsingham says, " had as many as 2000 
villeyus." The system was there happily abolished in Crom- 
well's time, but it survived in Scotland till a later period 
under the name of man-rent, and that notwithstanding Acts 
of Parliament directed against it. 

In the middle ages, there were erected throughout the 
country hospitals, generally for the reception and relief of 
lepers. There were also hospitals established for the care of 
the sick poor. We know also of establishments for the assist- 
ance and shelter of travellers such as those maintained by the 
monks on some of the Alpine passes at the present day. The 
hospitals in our own country, which may possibly have been 
made to fulfil not merely one, but all of these various pur- 
poses, were served by charitable brotherhoods. The members 
of the brotherhood took upon themselves certain vows of 
poverty, chastity, and obedience, in common with the other 
brotherhoods of the Roman Catholic Church. One of those 
hospitals existed in the parish of Sanquhar, being situated 

54 History of Sanquhar. 

near to Kingsburn, about half way between the Castle and 
Ilyehill. This must have been one of the most ancient of 
such establishments, for, though the date of its erection is not 
known, it was in existence so early as 1296, in which year 
Bartholomew de Eglisham, its chaplain and superintendent, 
swore fealty to Edward I. (Pryenne iii. 659). Simpson men- 
tions several relics of the place as having been observed. 
Hewn stones of Gothic masonry were found on the site ; a 
variety of human bones had been turned up at various times ; 
a large key was found near the same spot ; and what was 
believed to have been the font-stone of the chapel long stood 
in the open field. It is a fact that several stones, not 
apparently belonging to the Castle, but to some other build- 
ing of importance, are to be found built into the dykes in 
the vicinity. 

The exact date of the building of Sanquhar Castle cannot 
be fixed, but there is no reason to doubt that it was the work 
of the Edgars or their predecessors in the twelfth century. 
In connection with the Saxon colonisation in the reign of 
David I., to which reference has been made, the first thing done 
by these colonists for the defence of the possessions granted 
them by the Crown was the erection of some place of strength. 
It does not appear that they obtained a very extensive 
footing in Nithsdale, the Scoto-Jrish, of whom were the 
Edgars, keeping their ground. But no doubt their improved 
methods in the building of fortifications, as in everything 
else, would be noted by the native tribes, and, anxious like 
their neighbours to keep their own, the Edgars set about 
building a stronghold becoming their rank and station, and 
of greater security than anything of the kind erected at any 
previous time in the district. At all events, the Castle is 
mentioned as being held by Richard Edgar during the reign 
of Robert Bruce. The site of the Castle was a well chosen 
one. It was built on the verge of the plateau which runs 
along the valley of the Nith, overlooking what has once been 
the course of the river. It commanded the passage of Niths- 

History of Sanquhar. 55 

dale, one of the lines of march from England into Scotland, 
and was, both from its position and construction, a place of 
great strength. The possession of it was, therefore, of great 
importance during the long-continued war between the 
two countries, and frequently it changed hands. Though 
now in ruins, sufficient remains to enable us to gather a 
general idea of its size and style of architecture. An 
examination of the ruins leads to the conclusion that, 
originally one of those square baronial keeps which were 
common in the country about the twelfth century, it was 
enlarged from time to time, till latterly it must have been a 
fortress of considerable size, capable of accommodating a 
large garrison. It stands facing the north-west. The 
original keep, containing the principal gateway, has been, 
strange to say, the best and most substantially built part of 
the whole structure. The outer walls are composed of blocks 
of stone all of the same size, squared and dressed, and laid 
regularly in courses nine to eighteen inches in height, but 
they are now bleached and weather worn with the storms 
of centuries. The heart of the wall has been packed with 
whinstone and other hard material, into which hot lime has 
been run, welding the whole into one solid mass. A. close 
inspection of the lime in the walls reveals the fact that it had 
been burnt in open fires by the agency of coal, as numerous 
particles of unburnt coal are to be discerned mixed up with 
it. The interesting question arises Whence was the coal 
derived ? It is true that thin seams crop out at the edge of 
a cleuch on Ryehill near the Castle and elsewhere in the 
vicinity, and probably the early inhabitants had discovered 
its applicability for the purpose of fuel. The amount obtain- 
able, however, by mere open digging could not be great, and 
other methods would be required to secure the large quantity 
that would be necessary to burn so great a mass of lime as 
was evidently poured into the massive Castle walls. The 
natural and inevitable conclusion, therefore, appears to be 
that it must have been by mining, probably by driving in a 

56 History of Sanquhar. 

level, that the coal was procured ; if this be so. Sanquhar 
may claim to shew the earliest example in Scotland of coal- 
mining. The oldest authentic notice of the use of coals is 
recorded by the Monks of Newbattle, about 1210, but 
Sanquhar Castle was built in the twelfth century. 

This, the ancient Peel, does not appear to have been 
of any great size, being fit to afford protection to little 
more than the baron and his household. It would appear to 
have consisted of probably only one room on the ground 
floor, access being had to the upper storey or storeys by a 
spiral stair, traces of which are still visible. There were no 
offices attached, nor indeed was there the same necessity for 
accommodation of this kind. The wealth of the baron con- 
sisted of cattle and horses, which roamed in the woods that 
grew all around. Probably the first addition that was 
made in the vicinity of the Peel, for it does not appear at 
first to have been connected with it, is the square Tower at 
the south corner of the pile of ruins, and which, for what 
reason does not appear, was called Wallace's Tower. It 
measures twenty-three feet over the wall and ten to eleven 
feet inside. It consisted of three storeys at least, with a 
dungeon beneath, which, however, is now filled up to the 
level of the ground with the fallen debris. The chambers in 
this part have been very small, and the windows little better 
than loopholes. The stones used in the construction of this 
Tower are not so massive as those in the Peel. The ground 
floor was vaulted, as was probably also one of the upper 
floors. The original Keep and this southern Tower have 
been subsequently connected by a range of buildings on 
the southern and western sides. That this is so is plain 
from the fact that at the junction with the south Tower 
there is a straight joint from top to bottom of the wall. 
Next to the Tower is the bakery, with the oven outside 
the wall. This oven seems to have been an insertion. 
The kitchen is in the south-west corner. It has had a 
fire-place about ten feet by nine feet, with a stone drain 

History o/ Sanquhar. 57 

tlirough the wall to the outside. These additions were 
continued along the north-west or front side till the ancient 
Peel had been reached. They embraced a large round tower, 
which would be a prominent feature, and enhance greatly 
the appearance of the Castle. It likewise played an 
important part in the internal economy of the place, for it 
afforded access by a fine spiral stone stair, with steps four 
feet wide, to the upper floors of the Castle, while it enfolded 
within its sweep the well of the Castle, which was forty-two 
feet in depth, and beautifully built. The basement floor, 
which was vaulted, is at a lower level than the courtyard. 
The other two sides appear to have been completed at a later 
period, and when that had been done, Sanquhar Castle would 
be a fortress of great size and strength. Together, the court- 
yard and castle form an oblong, measuring about 167 feet from 
east to west, and 128 from north to south. From the outer 
courtyard in front, entrance to the Castle was obtained by an 
arched doorway about seven feet six inches wide, which was 
protected by the round tower. Through this door the inner 
courtyard was reached by a vaulted passage. The Castle 
was approached from the town along an avenue of trees, of 
which a few still remain, and the burn which runs round the 
base is carried under the roadway by an arched tunnel 
regularly built, one of the oldest specimens of work of the 
kind to be seen in Scotland. At the end of the avenue was 
the gateway leading into the outer courtyard at the north- 
west corner. This gateway, of which little remains, is 
seventeenth century work, and formed the entrance to a 
handsome quadrangle. It was surrounded on the unpro- 
tected sides by a double fosse, the common form of defence 
adopted in our ancient strongholds. An iron gate closed the 
entrance to the court, and when the ponderous portcullis was 
lowered, the garrison had little to fear, provided the place 
was well provisioned, for their supply of water was secured 
by the well within the round tower. On the death, in 1695, 
of William, first Duke of Queensberry, when the family 


58 History of Sanquhar. 

residence was tranferred to Drumlanrig, the Castle was 
stripped of its leaden roof and allowed to fall into ruins. 

Grose, in his " Antiquities," published in the end of last 
century, says : " Upon the bottom that lies beneath the 
west side of the castle were formerly the gardens, where the 
remains of a fish pond, with a square island in the middle, is 
still visible. On the south side of the castle was the Bowling 
Green, pretty near entire. The principal entrance was from 
the north-east, where a bridge was thrown over the fosse." 

The building has fallen into such a ruinous state that 
little can be known of the internal arrangements. The prin- 
cipal rooms, however, including the great hall, were situated 
in the vicinity of the gateway, on the front side. Much, 
however, that had long remained in obscurity was cleared up 
during a course of excavations, undertaken a few years ago, 
with consent of the Duke of Buccleuch, by the Marquis of 
Bute, the lineal descendant of the Crichtons, the ancient 
lords of the manor, whose most ancient title is Baron 
Crichton of Sanquhar. These excavations revealed the 
bakery, kitchen, and well, and parts of the internal dividing 
walls. No trace could be found, however, of the outer wall 
about the east corner, but it is quite supposable that this 
part of the wall, even to the foundations, was taken for the 
building of Sanquhar Town Hall, of which more anon. The 
bricks were manufactured here, pointing to the fact that 
brick-making is one of the oldest established industries of 
the district. It will be noticed that in the Earl of Queens- 
berry's letter, at the end of this chapter, reference is made 
to the same effect, the term " tiles " being there used. The 
mortar was very coarse, but strong, and the arch of the gate- 
way was pinned with oyster-shells. Teeth of the horse, cow, 
sheep, and pig were found, together with skulls of various 
breeds of dogs, and bones of all kinds of fowls, shewing that, 
in its later days at least, the diet of its inhabitants was of a 
liberal and varied kind. Two boar tusks were found in the 
sewer. The collection of curiosities unearthed also included 

History of Sanqukar. 5!) 

a massive old key, an antique chisel, an ancient reaping-hook 
toothed like a common saw, many pieces of glass and 
earthenware, the heel and sole of a lady's boot, differing but 
little in size and shape of the heel from the prevailing 
fashion of the present day. Five tobacco pipes of different 
patterns were turned up, one of them 'adorned with a rose 
on the bowl. These pipes were very small in the head so 
small that the consumption of tobacco by the smoker could 
not have been great. Another interesting relic was a 
child's toy in the form of a small boat found in one of the 
sewers. The greatest and most important discovery of all 
was the well in the round tower. The well, it was declared 
by the older people, was in the court ; but the architect 
argued that if there was a well within the walls, it would be 
found in the circular tower. This supposition, founded no doubt 
on the position of the well in other similar fortresses, proved, 
therefore, to be correct, and it was shown how unreliable an 
authority mere tradition is in matters of this kind. The 
well was forty-two feet in depth, lined with beautiful 
masonr}', which, however, had been removed for several feet 
at the top. About eighteen inches at the bottom was square, 
and constructed of wooden piles, upon which the masonry 
rested. A scabbard of an old sword, several gargoyles or 
water-spouts, a number of stone window-mullions, the legs 
of sundry chairs and tables, and the old bucket for drawing 
the water were found in the well. The bucket lay mouth 
downwards, and almost entire. There had been a traditional 
story current in the district that a huge pot of gold was 
hidden somewhere about the Castle, and this story was 
known to the workmen. The moment therefore the bucket 
was disclosed to view in such a condition that it was impos- 
sible to determine on a mere glance what it was, the story 
was recalled to the labourer's mind, and instantly his 
imagination pictured a glorious " find." He shouted in an 
excited manner " Here's the big pot o' gold. Pull me up, 
and I'll gie ye the half o't." Up came the man and the 

60 History of Sanquhar. 

bucket, but instead of gold it contained only a mass of 
broken stones. So much again for tradition. 

The entrance to the deer park from the avenue approach- 
ing the Castle, though now built up, is still discernible. The 
park skirted the gardens of the good burghers on the south 
side of the town, into which the deer, it is said, were accus- 
tomed to make plundering raids in winter, when the pasture 
was bare, and the kitchen vegetables on the other side were 
altogether too tempting. A curious accident occurred to an 
old buck in one of these raids. The gardens contained not 
only vegetables, but fruit trees, and, in jumping, this old 
reiver, who, from the height of the wall, could not see what 
was on the other side, drove one of his horns deep into the 
trunk of a tree in coming down, the horn snapping and leaving 
a considerable portion imbedded in the wood. The tree was 
cut and converted into a table, and it is said that the table, 
containing a section of the horn, is still to be seen in the 
town. The upper portion of the deer park was on a level 
with the town and the Castle, the lower lying along the 
banks of the river. The garden, about two acres in extent, 
lies at the back of the Castle facing the south. It is ter- 
raced at the upper end, and is still enclosed within a substan- 
tial wall, remains of the old fruit trees being visible until 
quite recently. 

It is but right to state that in " Castellated and Domestic 
Architecture of Scotland," M'Gibbon and Ross take a different 
view of the relative age of several parts of the structure, 
holding, for example, that the south Tower is the original 
Keep,, and therefore the most ancient portion, but we have 
adopted the view, which not only is supported by other anti- 
quarian authorities of eminence, but accords with the popular 
opinion founded upon natural conclusions drawn from the 
appearance of the ruins. 

Thus stood the Castle in its palmiest days a magnificent 
pile, towering up in massive strength and grandeur, the 
watchful guardian of the vale. The scene presented to the 

History of Sanquhar. 61 

noble dames, as they sat in the window of the great hall, 
would form a charming picture. At their feet lay the fish 
pond, whose calm and placid bosom was undisturbed save 
by the splashing of the trout or the white swans as they 
swam slowly and majestically round the island. The timid 
deer bounded over the surface of the wide and undulating 
park, their forms at one moment clearly outlined on the 
crest of a ridge and anon disappearing in a hollow, their tall 
antlers, like the masts of a ship at sea, being the last to dip 
out of sight. Further away, the valley, with its rich adorn- 
ment of woods, and herds of cattle browsing in the open 
spaces, stretched back for miles, and was encircled by a long 
range of hills deeply pierced on either hand by the bosky 
glens of Crawick and Euchan, and the wild Kello, while the 
western sun, as he sank behind the brow of distant Corsan- 
cone, flooded the whole with a rosy light. 

" The air a solemn stillness holds," 

unbroken save by the lowing of cattle as they are driven 
home to milking, the distant bleating of sheep, and the 
cawing of the rooks, as in great flocks they pursue their 
weary flight homeward to the woods of Eliock, while jovial 
shouts and laughter float up from the Bowling-Green where 
gallant knights for the moment forget the cares of state and 
bury their mutual jealousies and animosities. 

Copy Letter from the Earl of Queeusberry to his Cousin, 
Douglas of Domock. 

ED., 31 Autjt., 1688. 

" Soe soon as possible wreat to David Reid (to whom ther's uoe 
occasion going from this) that imediatly he meit with Wm. Lukup, and 
cause him send some of his men to Sanquhar to take in the Chimneyes of 
my Chamber, the Drawing Roume, and hall, which ar by a great deall too 
large, and by taking them in as they ought, will both make the Rouines 
warmer and prevent smoaking. This is to be done with the tile there, 
and cannot take up much tyme or charges, and I'll not be pleased if I find 
it not done when I come. Lykewise tell David to take exact notice to the 
ovens, both in the kitchen and bakehouse, and if they be any way faultie 

62 History of Sanquhar. 

that they be presently helped and made sufficient, for it will not be proper 
those things be doing when I'm ther. Tell him Lykewise that he and 
Win. Johnstone consider what useless Broken pouter (pewter) is there and 
uufitt to be made use off, and that he send it in by the first occasion heir 
with the weight of it. And new pouther (pewter) shall be sent out in 
place of it, and that he may do this more exactly, tell him goe throw the 
wholle Roumes and Wardrobes, and see if they have the keyes of the 
Wardrob at Drumlangrig, that the old wash-basins and what useless 
peader (pewter) he finds ther, send it out, and if there be any usefull 
pewter ther, send it to Sanquhar and keep it ther. James Weir tells 
me there is ane old Brewing Lead at Sanquhar quyt useless, and that it 
is not possible to mend it, order David and Wm. Johnstonne to con- 
sider it, and if it be soe, lett the said Lead be sent heir with one of 
the Retourued Carts from Drumlanrig, that it may be disposed off. But 
if it can be usefull at Drumlanrig or Sanquhar, it's still to be keept. 
Tell David and Wm. Johnstone to cause clear the Bartizans of 
Sanquhar, and that the doors be made sufficient and locks putt upon 
them. Tell Wm. Johnstone that I have lost the state of provisions to be 
sent to Sanquhar that he gave me when he was heir, soe order him by the 
first occasion to send me ane exact note of everything to be provided and 
sent from this, and that they have ther thoughts how all things shall be 
provided to the best advantage in the country, and that they remember 
former directions and have every thing in order. Tell David that he kill 
presently both the old Bucks, and send them heir cased up, as James Weir 
used to doe. I would not putt them to this, bot that David in his letter 
assured me that they can do it as weill as James Weir, bot tell them I'll 
take it verrie ill if they kill the wrong deer, soe if they have the least 
distrust of themselves, tell them not to Medle with it, but send me word 
and I'll wreat to James Weir to go ther. James Weir tells me one of the 
bucks to be killed is whyte and the other brown." 



the person of the William de Crichton, already 
mentioned, there came upon the scene a family of 
power and influence which, though they, at first, 
played a part subordinate to the older family of the 
Edgars, kept their ground, and acquired by purchase 
the remaining part of the barony of Sanquhar which 
belonged to that family. On his marriage to the heiress of 
Ryehill, the baronial residence was transferred to the much 
more important stronghold of Sanquhar Castle, where his 
family was established for well nigh three hundred years, 
and continued the leading family in Upper Nithsdale, their 
history being largely the history of Sanquhar during that 
long period of time. That being the case, it seems proper 
to give here a record in a summary form of 


According to Holingshed, the first Crichton came over 
from Hungary with Agatha, widow of the Saxon Prince 
Edward, when her daughter married Malcolm III., in 1067. 
Thurstanus de Crichton was a witness to the foundation 
charter of the Abbey of Holyrood House in 1128, and 
Thomas de Crichton swore fealty to Edward 1. for lands in 
Midlothian in 1296. His two sons founded the families of 
Sanquhar (now represented in the female line by the Marquis 
of Bute, who is also Earl of Dumfries) and of Frendraught. 

64 History of Sanquhar. 

The elder son became possessed of half the barony of 
Sanquhar through his wife, Isabelle de Ros, and subsequently 
purchased the remainder. 

Sir Robert, afterwards Lord Crichton of Sanquhar, was 
made Coroner of Nithsdale in 1468, and he received from 
James III. a grant of the confiscated Douglas lands. His 
cousin, Sir William Crichton, the Chancellor, was also created 
Lord Crichton. The Crichtons possessed lands in Dryfesdale, 
Kirkpatrick, in the barony of Kirkmichael, and in the barony 
of Crawfordstown, now known as the parish of Crawford in 
Lanarkshire, which bounds with the parish of Sanquhar. 
Before the Reformation, the Rectory of Kirkconnel was 
leased from the Abbey of Holyrood for 20 a year by the 
Crichtons. In 1494, Ninian Crichton, a layman, was parson 
of Sanquhar. By the marriage of James, the eldest son of 
Sir Robert, with Lady Janet Dunbar, the family succeeded 
to the barony of Frendraught-Gawin. The second son of 
Lord Crichton and Lady Janet seems to have married a 
daughter of Johnstone of Elphinstone, as he received with 
his wife in 1479 the lands of Drumgrey, viz., Moling, Monyge, 
Rahills, &c., in the barony of Kirkmichael, which had been 
conferred by David II. on a former Adam Johnstone, and 
were afterwards confirmed to Sir Gilbert Johnstone of 
Elphinstone by Crown Charter in 1471. Margaret, the 
daughter of the second Lord Crichton of Sanquhar and his 
wife Elizabeth Murray, married William Johnstone of Grait- 
ney, and was the ancestress of the Johnstones of Galabank 
and Fulford Hall. Estates, however, were increased or 
diminished with every generation at that period, from the 
custom of portioning off daughters and younger sons with 
land, for entails were not restricted to the senior male heir, 
but to heirs male generally, or to both heirs male and female, 
and this led to frequent exchanges between different families. 
Land that was brought by an heiress to a younger son is 
sometimes found a few years later in the hands of an elder 
brother's children, though he may himself have left heirs, 

History of Sanquhar. 65 

An arrangement of this nature was made by the two families 
of Crichton. 

The Ninian Crichton, the parson of Sanquhar, above re- 
ferred to, was tutor or guardian to his nephews and niece, the 
children of the second Baron Crichton, as appears by various 
decrees of the Lords in Council, in which a young Robert, 
Lord Crichton, is mentioned in 1525, who does not appear in 
any of the published pedigrees of the Crichton family, the 
presumption being that he died before he came of age. His 
brother William, who succeeded him, married a daughter of 
Malcolm, Lord Fleming. He was killed at Edinburgh, about 
1556, by Lord Sernple in the house of the Duke of Chatel- 
herault, who was then Governor of Scotland. Not only was 
the house of Crichton connected by marriage with other 
leading families in the country, but they would appear to 
have been favourites at Court, and were entrusted by the 
Crown with the discharge of important public offices. Chief 
among these was the Sheriffship of Dumfries. The duties 
of this appointment, in those days, were of a somewhat 
different character to what they have practically become in 
these times of established order. Whereas now the work of a 
Sheriff is almost exclusively of a judicial nature, and the 
military side of the office is only brought into view during 
the occurrence, happily now very rare, of a riot, in those 
early times the maintenance of the peace required that the 
Sheriff of this border county should be a man of some military 
capacity, and of firmness and resolution of temper. 

During the long-continued, though intermittent war that 
took place between England and Scotland through the 
determined efforts made by the former to bring Scotland 
into subjection, measures were taken by the lighting of what 
were termed " bails " that is bonfires on the principal hill 
tops along the border, and northward towards the heart of 
the country, to give warning to the barons of any English 
invasion. These outbreaks often took place without any 
previous warning. The diplomatic courtesy, which is now 

66 History of Sanquhar. 

observed among civilised nations before a declaration of war 
is made, was then totally unknown. The outbreak was 
frequently unpreceded by any apparent cause of quarrel, but 
was simply a case of unwarrantable, unprovoked aggression. 
It was gone about, therefore, without ceremony, and prepara- 
tions were made with as great secrecy as possible. The time 
chosen for attack was that which best suited the con- 
venience of the aggressor, and so it commonly happened that 
the first intimation given that there was mischief in the 
wind was the sudden appearance of an armed force on the 
border. Without telegraphs or railways, or even a decent 
road, the message of warning had to be conveyed in some 
other way than by telegram, letter, or courier. The means 
adopted were effectual for the purpose, and very appropriate. 
Stevenson, who is quoted by Sir Walter Scott, describes the 
beacon as being constructed of "a long and strong tree, set 
up with a long iron pole across the head of it, and an iron 
warder fixed on a stalk in the middle of it for holding a tar 
barrel." This was raised on the principal eminences, and 
signalmen were appointed to apply the torch when the light 
was observed on the next station. In this way the news 
spread with lightning-like rapidity, and warning was given 
not only to the barons, but to the whole of their vassals and 
retainers liable to military service. Fire is a very appropriate 
symbol of war, and of the " red ruin " which it brings in its 
train, and we can well imagine when the first ray of fiery 
light shot up from the mountain peak, kindling the blazing 
beacon, which shed its ruddy glare across the face of the 
midnight sky, how picturesque and striking the scene would 
be. But it struck no terror into the hearts of the people ; 
it only served to quicken the pulse, and stir the patriotic 
ardour, of our stout-hearted forefathers. 

" Theirs the stern joy which warriors feel 
In foemen worthy of their steel. " 

In addition to the judicial, it was part of the military 
duties of the Sheriff of Dumfries the office which Crichton 

History o/ Sanquhar. 67 

held to see that these Bail-fires were lit when occasion 
demanded. Corsancone was the farthest inland of these 
beacon peaks. From its top the signal from the far south 
could be seen, and thence transmitted northwards along the 
western coast. 

The office of Sheriff was of ancient origin, but there 
is no certainty that, prior to 1296, a Sheriffdom had 
been created in Dumfries. It is true that William the Lion, 
who died in 1212, in a charter enforcing the payment of 
tithes to Jocelyn, Bishop of Glasgow, in whose diocese the 
churches in Nithsdale were long included, addressed it to his 
"justiciaries, Sheriff, and all other his ministers and bailiffs." 
But these may have been mere words of form used in such 
documents, just as we find a set form of words employed in 
the charters of Royal Burghs at a later time, and can hardly 
be adduced as proof of the actual existence of such offices in 
every case where they were used. There is, at all events, no 
doubt on the point from 1305, in which year Edward I. 
recognised Dumfries as a Sheriffdom, and appointed Richard 
Syward to be his Sheriff of Dumfriesshire. The bounds of 
this officer's jurisdiction, however, were not then what they 
subsequently became. A different polity prevailed in Annan- 
dale, where the jus gladii, the law of the sword, was granted 
by David I. to Robert de Brus. In process of time the 
Sheriffship of Dumfries became hereditary. Sir William 
Douglas, natural son of Archibald, lord of Galloway, acquired 
by his marriage with the Lady Giles, daughter of Robert II., 
the lordship of Nithsdale, with the Sheriffship of Dumfries, 
and so strenuously was the hereditary principle upheld, even 
in the case of an office of this description, that it was vested 
in a female, Giles, called the Fair Maid of Nithsdale, the only 
daughter and heiress of the Lord of Nithsdale, who was 
killed at Dantzic in 1390. This lady sheriff married Henry 
Sinclair, Karl of Orkney, and left a son, William, who 
inherited Nithsdale and the Sheriffship of Dumfries, both of 
which he, in 1455, resigned to James II. for the Earldom of 

68 History of Sanquhar. 

In July, 1484, the traitors the Earl of Douglas and the 
Duke of Albany who had deserted their country's cause and 
gone over to her English enemies, invaded Dumfriesshire at 
the head of an English force. The country gentlemen 
promptly summoned their followers, attacked the base 
intruders, and defeated them. Douglas was taken prisoner, 
and Albany fled back to England. Crichton of Sanquhar, 
who rendered a part in this important service, was rewarded 
by an addition to his lands. His loyalty, besides being thus 
recognised in a substantial manner, would appear to have 
brought him into permanent favour with the King, who, in 
1487, created him a peer of Parliament under the title of 
Lord Sauquhar. He had previously obtained a confirmation 
of the office of Sheriff in 1464, and in 1468 he acquired a 
grant of the office of Coroner of Nithsdale. These two offices 
continued hereditary in the Crichton family for 200 years, 
till they were disposed of, along with the barony of Sanquhar, 
to the Earl of Queensberry. The Sheriffdom of Dumfries 
included Annandale and Nithsdale, with the Stewartry of 
Kirkcudbright, but the local jurisdictions restrained the 
authority of the Sheriff almost entirely to Nithsdale, and 
even there it was still further curtailed, in 1497, through 
Douglas of Drumlanrig obtaining from the King an exemp- 
tion of himself, his household, and tenants from the jurisdic- 
tion of the Sheriff of Dumfries, there being a deadly enmity 
between the two lords. 

The turbulent barons did not regard the King's authority 
with any great reverence, and the office of Sheriff was there- 
fore no sinecure. As an instance of the Jawless and violent 
habits of these barons, and the disturbed social conditions of 
that age, we read that at the time when Lord Crichton was 
holding an assize in the year 1508 a great battle was fought 
outside the court-house between Maxwell aided by John- 
stone, and others. M'Dowall, in his history of Dumfries, gives 
the following account of the affray : " The Crichtons and 
Maxwells had grown greatly in favour since the fall of the 

History of Sanquhar. 69 

Douglasses. There had long been a deadly feud between 
the two houses, which was intensified by the circumstance 
that Lord Sanquhar seemed to be extending his influence 
over Lower Nithsdale at the expense of Lord Maxwell, who, 
though Steward of Annandale, did not like to see the neigh- 
bouring Sheriffdom possessed by his rival. The idea that a 
district occupied by many of his own adherents should be 
legally presided over by any other than a Maxwell was the 
reverse of pleasant to Lord John ; that it should be placed 
under the sway of a Crichton was deemed by him intolerable. 
' We must teach this aspiring chief a lesson let him see 
who is master of Dumfries,' muttered the wrathful Steward. 
Lord Sanquhar held a court in the shire town towards the 
close of July, 1508. On the 30th of that month no trials 
were proceeded with the ' dittays ' having been deserted 
the hall of justice abandoned for the Lower Sandbeds, where 
the warlike vassals of the noble Sheriff stood drawn up in 
battle array, prepared in some degree for the threatened 
onset, of which he had received timely notice. Lord Max- 
well, at the head of a considerable force, and accompanied by 
William Douglas of Drumlanrig, entered the town by the 
Annandale road from the south, and attacked the Crichton 
party with a fury that was irresistible. How long the 
engagement continued is not known. Sir James Balfour 
speaks of it as ' a grate feight ' that it was a sanguinary 
one is beyond any doubt. The same annalist records that 
' Lord Sanquhar was overthrown, and many of his frindes 
killed.' Bishop Lesley, describing it, says ' Lord Creychton 
was chaissit with his company frae Drumfries, and the Laird 
of Dalyell and the young laird of Cranchlay slain, with 
divers uthers, quhairof thair appeared greit deidly feid and 
bludshed.' " Thoroughly routed, Lord Sanquhar was chased 
from the town, over which he professed to hold rule in the 
King's name driven for refuge to his castle among the hills, 
leaving his exulting rival, if not Sheriff of Nithsdale, undis- 
puted chief of its principal burgh. Maxwell, however strange 
it may appear, was allowed to go unpunished." 

70 History of Sanquhar. 

This incident not only illustrates the fierce and violent 
temper of Maxwell, of which there is other abundant proof, 
and the jealousy which bred much of the perpetual strife 
between rival families and afflicted the country for generations, 
but also the feebleness of James's government, which allowed 
to go unpunished this flagrant outrage on his own authority 
in the person of his legal representative, unless we are to 
believe that he looked on the outcome of the encounter with 
cynical indifference, if not with secret satisfaction, as it 
appears that at this time the loyalty of the Crichtons was 
not free from suspicion. There are some grounds for this 
belief, for, though Maxwell was not called to account, others 
who had taken part in the affray, such as Douglas of Drum- 
lanrig, Ferguson of Craigdarroch, and his son Thomas, had 
to undergo a form of trial on 30th September, 1512, at 
Edinburgh, for the murder of Robert Crichton, a nephew of 
the Sheriff's, and were acquitted, on the ground that the 
deceased Robert Crichton was " our soverane lordis rebell 
and at his home " when the conflict occurred. 

His son Robert was the fourth Lord of Sanquhar, and was 
married to Margaret Cunningham. He died without issue, 
and was succeeded by his brother Edward, who married 
Margaret, daughter of Sir James Douglas of Drumlanrig. 

In 1547, after the disastrous defeat of Pinkie, the shire of 
Dumfries was reduced to a state of complete submission to 
the power of the English, and the whole of the border chiefs, 
with the exception of Douglas of Drumlanricke, swore fealty 
to England. A record of the transaction has been preserved, 
and, in the list of lairds and their adherents who thus sub- 
mitted, is found the name of Edward Crichton, with ten 

In 1565, when Murray and his partisans broke out into 
rebellion on account of Queen Mary's marriage with Lord 
Darnley, they were driven by the Queen's forces into Dum- 
friesshire, where they received a cool reception. Lord Crichton 
warmly espoused the Queen's cause, and was honoured with 

History of Sanquhar. 71 

a command in the advanced guard of her army, under the 
Earl of Lennox. However, he faltered for a time in his 
loyalty, for we find that in June, 1567, he was one of the 
only two Dumfriesshire chiefs who drew their treasonous 
swords against the unhappy Queen, the other being Douglas 
of Drumlanrig. Nevertheless he returned to his allegiance, for, 
when Murray, only a few months later, assumed the regency, 
Lord Sanquhar deserted him, and when the imprisoned Queen 
escaped from Lochleven Castle, joined her at Hamilton, 
and fought on her behalf at Langside. On the flight of 
Mary, after the disastrous defeat of her army, the Regent 
collected a large force and proceeded south to chastise the 
Queen's adherents in Dumfriesshire. The first place of 
strength which he attacked was Sanquhar Castle, which he 
speedily reduced to submission. 

While the office of Sheriff of the County was held by Lord 
Sanquhar, another public office of trust was at this period 
filled by a member of the family. A Privy Council Minute 
of 23rd February, 1567, bears that " Maister Robert Creich- 
toun of Sanquhar, Collector of Wigtoun, Kirkcudbright, 
Dumfries, and Annanderdaill, is ordered to compeer befoir 
the Lords Auditouris of Chekker and thair make compt of 
his intromissions that the ministeris and thair collectouris 
may understand quhat is taken up and quhat is restand to be 
taken up by them." 

It is well known to all who have the slightest know- 
ledge of Scottish history that, while the more powerful 
nobles were almost constantly engaged in State intrigues 
in the struggle for place and power, the minor barons 
were incessantly employed in mutual plunder and harass- 
ment. The Borders were, from their geographical situation 
on the line of march between England and Scotland, 
in an almost continual state of disturbance. Whatever 
parts of the rival kingdoms might escape the ravages of the 
long-continued struggle between the two countries, the 
Borders were sure to suffer. The description that applies to 

72 History of Sanquhar. 

the Scottish barons in general applies in an especial degree 
to the Border chiefs. And little wonder that this should 
have been the case. The necessity which called them from 
time to time to stand up in defence of their possessions 
naturally bred a stout-hearted race. None other in such an 
age, and so situated, could have long kept their ground. 
Those members of the Maxwell, Johnstone, Douglas, and 
Scot families of an unwarlike disposition had no resource, it 
is significantly said, but to leave Dumfriesshire. Many of 
them repaired to Edinburgh, where they became merchants, 
and attained to great wealth. In no part of the country was 
the old rule in more effectual operation 

' That they should take who have the power, 
And they should keep who can." 

The intervals that occurred between the frequent incursions 
of the English into Scotland, or the Scottish into England, 
were usually too brief to allow the borders to fall into 
a settled state, and so it was that, during these intervals, 
the border chiefs either, tempted by their proximity to the 
English lauds, attempted on their own account, singly or in 
combination, to make reprisals for the losses and injuries 
they had sustained, or practised the game of plunder upon 
each other. There was continual strife and jealousy 
between the barons of the two sides of the county Annan- 
dale and Nithsdale and many a fierce and bitter encounter 
was the result. A notable case of the kind occurred in 1593. 
" The notorious Johnstone of Annandale, who had joined 
the Earl of Bothwell in an attempt to seize the King's 
person, had been shut up in prison in Edinburgh Castle for 
his treasonable act. Succeeding eventually in making his 
escape, he made his way to Lochwood. He had been only 
one of several of the redoubtable border chiefs who had been 
concerned in the plot, and the King, with his accustomed 
weakness, in place of repressing them with a firm hand, visited 
Dumfriesshire, and offered by proclamation a pardon to all 
who would renounce Bothwell and promise loyal behaviour 

History of Sanquhar. 73 

for the future. These merciful conditions were accepted by 
many, though not by Johnstoue." M'Dowall's History of 
Dumfries. The latter, with his clan, marched into Niths- 
dale and ravaged the lands of Lord Sanquhar and of Douglas 
of Drumlanrig. He was a gay and dissipated character, and 
was therefore called " The Galliard." He was caught by 
Crichton's men while in the act of seizing one of their horses, 
and was unceremoniously hanged in the presence of his 
nephew, William Johnstone of Kirkhill, notwithstanding the 
entreaties of the latter. His followers, pursued by the 
Crichtons with the object of recovering the cattle which had 
been stolen from them, stood at bay, and, stung doubtless by 
the humiliating fate of their chief, they fought with despera- 
tion, so that many of their enemies fell in the skirmish. 

" This bloody battle is referred to in an old ballad. The 
appeal of the ' Galliard ' for mercy is thus expressed 
' O ! Simmy, Simmy ! ' so he pleaded with his captor, 
Sirnon of the side 

' ! Simmy, Simmy, now let me gang, 
And I'll ne'er mair a Crichton wrang ; 
O ! Simmy, Simmy, now let me be, 
And a peck o' gowd I'll gie to thee.' 

The appeal was, as we have said, in vain, and the sequel is 
thus described : 

' Back tae Nithsdale they hae gane, 
And awa the Crichtons' nowt hae taen ; 
And when they cam to the Wellpath-head, 
The Crichtons bade them ' Light and lead. ' 

' Light and lead,' that is dismount and give battle. 

' Then out spoke Willie of Kirkhill, 
Of fighting, lads, ye'se hae your fill ; 
And from his horse Willie he lap, 
And a burnished brand in his hand he gat. 

' Out through the Crichtons Willie he ran, 
And dang them down, baith horse and man, 
O, but the Johnstones were wondrous rude, 
When the Biddes Burn ran three days blude. ' 


74 History of Sanquhar. 

The Biddes Burn is a brook running between Nithsdale 
and Annandale, near the head of the Evan." M'DowaWs 

The Crichtons appealed for redress to Lord Maxwell, 
Warden of the Marches, but more effectual means were 
taken to bring to the notice of the authorities the dire 
results of this raid. A remarkable scene was subsequently 
presented in Edinburgh. " Fifteen poor widows from 
Sanquhar came to complain to the King that their husbands, 
sons, and servants were cruelly murdered by the Laird of 
Johnstone, themselves ' spoiled,' and nothing left them. 
Finding that they could obtain no satisfaction, the poor 
women, who had carried with them the bloody shirts of their 
dead husbands, roused the popular feeling of the city by 
marching through the streets, carrying the blood-stained 
clothing. This took place on Monday, the 23rd July. The 
people were much moved, and cried out for vengeance upon 
the King and Council."* Ultimately, however, Lord Maxwell, 
as Warden, was enjoined to execute justice on this turbulent 
clan. The injured chiefs and others joined to assist Maxwell. 
Thereupon Johnstone secured the adhesion of the Scotts, 
Elliots, and Grahams, and a contest ensued which involved 
the whole of the principal Border clans. A preliminary 
battle took place at Lochmaben, in which Johnstone was 
victorious, but the decisive engagement was fought in 
December at Dryfesands, where Maxwell assembled a body 
of 2000 men, displaying the King's banner as the royal 
lieutenant. The Johnstones and their allies, though over- 
powered in numbers, fought with such desperate valour as 
to rout the King's lieutenant and the royal army, Maxwell 
himself being slain.*f 

The character and habits of the Crichtons, of both the 
head of the family who ruled from Sanquhar Castle, and the 
minor branches who possessed little lairdships in the neigh- 
bourhood, differed in no respect from those of their order 

* Dumfries Magazine, t M'Dowall's History. 

History of Sanquhar. 75 

throughout the whole south country. They quarrelled fiercely 
with their neighbours, readily resorting to violence in the 
gratification of their revenge or in the pursuit of their 
schemes of plunder and spoliation ; while towards their 
inferiors they behaved in an insolent and over-bearing 
manner. Indeed, they were a bold, masterful race, not 
hesitating to act in defiance of the orders of even the King 
in Council. Their name frequently appears in the records 
of the Privy Council, charged with deeds of turbulent law- 
lessness ; they were bound over in heavy sureties to keep 
the peace, and, on one occasion, a Crichton was doomed to 
confinement in Edinburgh Castle during the King's pleasure. 
The family of Hamilton was contemporary with that of 
Crichton, and possessed considerable power and influence, as 
is evidenced by a complaint made in 1579 by Williame 
D unbar as follows : 

" William Hammiltoun of Sanquhar, having consavitane deidlie hettreut 
and malice causles aganis the said Williame Dunbar, upon the xiii. day of 
Aprile last bipast, come to his place at Enterkin quhairin he dwellis and 
remains presentlie accumpanyit with tuentie horsmen or hairby, bodin in 
weirlyke maner, with lang gunnis'and pistolettis prohibit to be worne 
be oure actis of Parliament and Secreit Couusale, jakis, steilbonnatis, 
swirdis, and uther wappynins invasive and thair be way of hamesuckin, 
serchit and socht the said Willieme Dunbar for his slauchter and destruc- 
tiouri and the said Williame Hammiltoun finding himself be his non appre- 
hensioun disappointit of his weikit purpois, brak doun his dykis and yettis 
of his fenssis and hainingis not litill to his hurt and scaith. Farther, the 
said Williame Hammiltoun for execution of his ewill will aganis the said 
William Dunbar, dalie be plane force and way of deid oppressis and com- 
mittis reiffis, spulzeis of horssis, cornis, cattell and utheris guidis upoun his 
puir tennentis of the landis of Sornis, Mosgavill, Dykesdaill, the mains 
Grenok and Eistir-Sanquhar, swa that be frequent reiffis and oppressionis 
foirsaidis the saidis puir tennentis ar allutterlie wrakit. " 

Hamilton failed to appear on pain of horning, and the penalty 
was ordered to take effect. Poor Dunbar's plaint describes 
in quaint and graphic language the manner and circumstance 
of the regular reiving raids which were being perpetrated 
daily at this period among the petty chiefs and barons all 
along the debateable land. 

76 History of Sanquhar. 

The minor branches of the Crichtou family did not fail to 
imitate the manners of their feudal head. They held petty 
lairdships in the neighbourhood Ryehill. Ardoch, Gareland 
Carne, and others, and, possibly emboldened by the fact that 
the Lord of Sanquhar, the King's Justiciary of the district, 
was their friend, they carried things with a high hand. 

In 1566, complaint is made by one William Flemyng, a 
burgess of Edinburgh 

" That Ninian Creichtoun in Carne, Robert Creichtoun, Andro Creich- 
toun, brether german and Robert Creichtoun their bruther naturall 
invaidit the said William and mutilat him in his rycht arme quhairthrow 
he is impotent and unabill to work for his leving ; that they on na wayis 
wald find souertie and thairefter was put to the horne ; that they were 
reparand dailie in company with Edward Lord Creichtoun, Sheref of 
Dumfreis ; that the said Sheref had been chargeit sundry tymes to haif 
usit justice upon thaime, but refusing, he was chargeit to haif compeirit 
befoir the Lords of Secreit Counsall to answer for his eontemptiouu. 
Lord Creichton failed to appear, and is commandit and chargeid to present 
himself before the Soverain and thair Lordships under all hieast pane and 
offence. " 

William Creichtoun, in 1579, is bound over not to harm 
Patrick M'Crerik, burgess of Sanquhar, and, by a separate 
caution, the said William Creichtoun, in his capacity as 
Sheriff of Dumfries, is bound over that he will enter M'Crerik 
peaceably into certain specified " leggis of land with houses 
lying in the burgh of Sanquhar, and will not molest him in 
the possession of the same afterwards." Some time before, in 
1576, a complaint had been made to the Council against 
William Creichtoun, Tutor of Sanquhar, by Robert Dalyell 
of that Ilk, Cristiane Dalyell, Lady Covingtoun, and James 
Lindesay in Auchintagairt, " tuiching the unbesetting of 
thair gait within the town of Sanquhar, in the month of 
October last bipast, and stopping theme to cum to the kirk 
of Sanquhair besydis the invasiouu of the said James Linde- 
say for his slauchter." Then in 1579 Creichtoun, described 
by the same title, " was ordained to find caution of 500 
merks, which he did by the hands of Johnne Gordon of 
Lochinvar, that he shall not impede or trouble Elizabeth and 

History of Sanquhar. 77 

Margaret Stewart, daughters of the late James, Earl of 
Murray, in the uptaking of the maills of the lordship of 
Sanquhar belonging to them as donators during the time of 
the ward and nonentres of the said lordschip." 

It would be interesting to know if this William Creichloun 
was the same as he who was included in a list of persons 
ordered to be banished furth the realm by the Act of Parlia- 
ment passed in 1587. This measure was for the purpose of 
purging the land of popery, and charges all Jesuits and 
seminary priests to leave the country within one month, 
'under pain of death. Certain Commissioners are appointed, 
who are enjoined 

"To apprehend and either present for trial before the justice in the 
Tollbuith of Edinburgh or themselves try and administer justice upon the 
following classes of offenders : ( 1 ) Jesuits and seminary priests, including 
Mr James Gordon, uncle of the Earl of Huntley, Mr Edmund Hay, brother 
of the goodman of Meginche, Mr William Creichtoun, etc. , in cais they sal 
not depairt furth of this realm and enter themselffis to the Provost of 
Edinburgh to be lingut quhile the occasioun serve to transporte thame 
according to the proclamatioun publist to that effect. (2) Rebels reman- 
ing at the horn for slauchteris or sic utheris odious crymes. (3) Sinners, 
brigands, and masterful vagabonds. " 

The Lords of Sanquhar and Elliock would seem to have 
eyed each other across the river, from their respective strong- 
holds, with jealousy and hatred. The Privy Council Records 
shew that, in 1610, Robert, Lord Creichtoun, on the one part, 
and Sir Robert Dalyell of that Ilk and Sir Robert Dalyell, 
his son and apparent heir (the Dalyells were then the lairds 
of Elliock), were called to answer " for certain mutual 
challangeis of provocation and defyance." The younger 
Dalyell is " committit to ward in Edinburgh Castle " for 
having " utterit some uncomlie and undiscrete speeches im- 
porting a provocation and brag aganis the Lord Sanquhair;" 
while Lord Sanquhair and the elder Sir Robert Dalyell are 
" bound over to find caution to keep the peace, the former 
5000 rnerks, the latter 3000 merks." This Lord Robert 
Creichtoun, though he would appear to have been the 

78 History of Saviquhar. 

aggrieved party in the above instance, was himself a fre- 
quent offender against public order, and was often cited 
before the Privy Council on the complaint of his neighbours 
of his tyrannical conduct, and bound over by heavy sureties 
to keep the peace. Considering that he held the King's 
commission as Sheriff and Justiciary of Nithsdale, his con- 
duct was all the more reprehensible, and constituted a bad 
example to those who were under his jurisdiction. 

In 1597, Thomas Kirkpatrick of Closeburn complained to 
the Council that " Robert, Lord Creichtoun of Sanquhar, 
Sheriff Principal of Dumfries, intends now under the pretext 
and cullour of justice and be the authoritie of his office of 
sheriffship or commissioun of justiciare to utter his haitreut 
and malice aganis the said Thomas Kirkpatrick, his kin> 
freindis, tennantis, and servandis," and in particular that he 
had " putt violent hands on Johnne Wilsoun his tennant 
and servand quhome be direckit to the said Lord with a 
missive letter and detanis him in strait firmance." Lord 
Sanquhar does not appear to have had any reason of quarrel 
with Kirkpatrick personally, but, having entered into a bond 
of friendship with Sir James" Douglas of Drumlanrig (they 
are described in the complaint as " brethir and suster's 
bairns "), who was Kirkpatrick's mortal enemy, Lord San- 
quhar conceived that he, too, must quarrel with the latter. 
The probability is that he was instigated by Sir James, and 
that he was thus led to prostitute his high judicial office to 
gratify the revenge of a friend. Lord Sauquhar is also 
charged in the complaint by Kirkpatrick with " the schame- 
full and cruel wounding of Johnne Williamson n of Castle 
Robert, the said Thomas' servand and depeudair," and Kirk- 
patrick concludes by requesting that redress be given him, 
and that he and his friends, tenants, servants, &c., should be 
exempted from the jurisdiction of Lord Creichtoun as Sheriff. 
The Lords of the Privy Council granted the prayer of the 
petition in both particulars, but, notwithstanding, Lord 
Creichtoun, in defiance of both King and Council, " causit 

History of Sanquhar. 79 

execute the said tennant to the deid, quhaw wes a trew man, 
nevir spotted nor suspect of any sic crymes as he falslie 
objectit against him, whereby he usurped upon him his 
Majesties princely power in executiouu of his Majesties 
subjectis without warrand or power." Both parties were of 
course called, when Lord Creichtoun's defence was that 

" He had put the said Johnne to the knowledge of an assize for certain 
crimes of theft committed by him and that the said Johnne having been 
found guilty, he had caused him to be executed by virtue of the commis- 
sion given to him to that effect being then ignorant that the said 
commission had been before discharged. " The King, with advice of the 
Council, in respect of the said Lord's " wrongous proceeding aganis the 
said Johnne AVilsoun eftir he was discharged in manner foirsaid and con- 
tempt thairthrouch done to his Hieness " ordains him to enter in ward in 
the Castle of Edinburgh within twenty-four hours hereafter, and remain 
there till he be freed by his Majesty, and in the meantime suspends and 
discharges the said commission, of which intimation is ordered to be made 
by open proclamation at the Market Cross of Dumfries. 

It must not be concluded from these and other similar 
incidents in his career that this lord was ignorant and 
untutored a man of ungovernable passions, belonging to 
the class of petty barons who had only partially emerged 
from a state of barbarism. He certainly was not superior to 
the vices of his age, and was apt to be self-willed and 
obstinate in maintaining the privileges of his order, but he 
was a man withal of high natural endowments, and also of 
cultivation and refinement of manners, the latter the result 
of residence at Court and of foreign travel. " He was," says 
the historian, Aikman, " a man of rare courage and wit, and 
endowed with many excellent gifts as well natural as 
acquired;" and therefore it was that he took a prominent 
place in the state, being a favourite with his Sovereign. 
His name is found in the Convention of Estates in 1596 and 
1597, during which years he also sat at many meetings of 
the Privy Council. 

When James succeeded to the English throne in 1603, 
there followed in his train, across the border, a number of 
Scottish nobles, among them Lord Sanquhar. Creichtoun 

80 History of Sanquhar. 

counted among his many accomplishments that of being a 
skilful fencer. In a spirit of bravado he sought to give an 
exhibition of his skill at the expense of a fencing-master 
named Turner, in his own school, and in the presence of his 
pupils. Sanquhar pressed the fencing-master so hard that 
he lost an eye by an unlucky thrust of his opponent's foil. 
When Creichtoun visited the French Court some time after, 
the King inquired how he came by the accident, and, on being 
informed, sarcastically asked " And does the fellow yet 
live ? " Stung to the quick by the taunt of the King, which 
implied an imputation on the courage of this high-spirited 
lord, he, on his return, took counsel with two of his servants, 
who were brothers, named Robert and William Carlyle. 
The result was that the fencing-master was assassinated by 
Robert, just as he was entering his lodging. The murder 
created a great sensation, more particularly in the state of 
feeling among the English towards the Scottish nobles, which 
was one of great jealousy and antipathy. That Lord Sanquhar 
and the assassin's brother William were accessory to the 
crime was plain from the fact that all three immediately fled 
into hiding, in the hope, apparently, that the matter might in 
time blow over ; but, " hearing that 1000 were offered for 
his head, Sanquhar," says Crawford in his Peerage of Scot- 
land, " resigned himself to the King's mercy, and acknow- 
ledged the murder. But no intercession could prevail. His 
life satisfied the law, for he was executed before the gates of 
Westminster, the 29th June, 1612." Aikman remarks 
" His death excited universal regret. The eloquence of his 
discourse at his trial, and the civility and discretion of his 
behaviour there made the people bewail his fall with great 

Thus perished one of the greatest and most accomplished 
of all the Crichtons. The crime of which he was guilty 
could in no case be justified, still there is to be said for him 
that he had harboured no feeling of malice or revenge. The 
words of the French King, sounding in his ears as the voice 

History of Sanquhar. 81 

of the tempter, had goaded him on to the perpetration of 
the dark deed, out of a false sense of what was due to his 
honour. His was no end of sordid selfishness or private 
aggrandisement, which, in this comparatively rude age, 
prompted to many a foul deed. In all likelihood this had 
been the case with some who now, with a fine affectation of 
virtue, expressed their horror at his crime and loudly 
clamoured for his punishment. The code of morality was 
not in those times so very high ' but that deeds of quite as 
black a character as Creichtoun's were readily enough con- 
doned where the offender could, like him, command powerful 
influence at Court, but he had the misfortune to be convicted 
at a time when national jealousy between the English and 
Scots ran high. The English nobility were not reconciled to 
the accession to their throne of James, the King of Scotland, 
a small kingdom for which they had a lofty contempt, and 
whose high-spirited and warlike people had long and success- 
fully resisted all attempts at subjugation to English rule. 
They could not, it was true, dispute James's right to the 
English throne, but all the same they regarded him as an 
intruder, an idea which, it must be confessed, James's 
character and manners were not calculated to modify or 
overcome. Further, the influx of Scots who followed their 
King across the border, and their bearing, which, in the eyes 
of these haughty English nobles, savoured of presumption, 
created a feeling of antipathy which, in process of time, 
affected the minds of the common people as well. At such 
a time and in such a condition of feeling, then, it was that 
Creichtoun's trial took place. We need not be surprised, 
therefore, that he was sentenced to suffer the extreme penalty 
of the law, and that all the powerful influence which was put 
forth at Court on his behalf was unavailing. At the .same 
time, it is alleged, in Osborne's Secret History of State Trials, 
vol. I. p. 231, that James bore Lord Sanquhar a grudge "for 
his love to the King of France, and his not making any reply 
when he (the French King) said in his presence, to one that 


82 History of Sanqukar. 

called our James a second Solomon, that he hoped he was 
not the son of David the fiddler." Creichtoun may, at all 
events, be regarded as partly a scapegoat, delivered over to 
pacify, if that were possible, the feelings of jealousy and 
resentment entertained by the English nobility towards the 
Scots in general, and in particular towards those Scottish 
nobles who were becoming powerful rivals to them at Court. 
Confirmation of this view is derived from Calderwood, who, 
writing of the affair, says : 

" To content the Englishe, the King consented that Sanquhar should 
be hangit. For the greater contempt of our nobilitie he was hangit 
among a number of theevs." Crawford also remarks "To understand 
the reason of the King's exemplary severity in this case, one must 
remember the extreme antipathy to the Scots that had for some years been 
prevalent among the English, and especially among the Londoners, and 
one of the chief causes of which was the insolence and swaggering behaviour 
of the young Scottish lords and knights about the Court. Under peril of 
a popular insurrection in London against the Scottish favourites, James 
did not dare to pardon Lord Sanquhar, whose execution, indeed, did some- 
what appease the vehemence of the Anti-Scottish clamour." 

William, the seventh Lord Crichtou, was, it is said, served 
heir to the preceding Lord Crichton in 1619, and yet there 
is no doubt that King James was entertained by Crichton 
at Sanquhar Castle in 1617. It would appear, therefore, 
that, if the statement be correct that he was not served heir 
till 1619, he had, on the execution of his predecessor, entered 
quietly into possession without venturing to make application 
for the legal instruments connected with his formal entry. 
He would no doubt be aware that the perpetration of such a 
crime, and the execution of the guilty noble, frequently 
resulted in the forfeiture of his title and the confiscation of 
his estates, and so, with characteristic Scotch caution, he 
may have resolved to "let sleeping dogs lie" to say nothing 
so long as he was left undisturbed. If that be the correct 
explanation of what appears somewhat puzzling, then we can 
understand how the visit of King James to Scotland would 
present itself to Crichton's mind as a favourable opportunity 
for obtaining recognition as the legal as well as the virtual 

History of Sanquhar. 83 

owner of the family patrimony. Besides, the claim which 
Crichton might seek to establish on the King's favour by 
his hospitable entertainment of him would be materially 
strengthened by the fact that he held the King's bond for a 
large sum of money lent him. This loan may have been 
raised by the King as a sort of " hush-money," Crichton 
being, in the circumstances, entirely in his sovereign's power, 
so far as his title and lands were concerned. Be that as it 
may, there had been a transaction of borrowing and lending 
between them. The King's visit to Scotland took place in 
1617, fourteen years after he had ascended the English 
throne. He was accompanied by a splendid train of courtiers, 
headed by the brilliant and handsome Duke of Buckingham 
" the glass of fashion and the mould of form." He pro- 
ceeded by the east coast to Edinburgh, which he reached on 
the 18th of May (?) and, returning by the west, he passed 
down Nithsdale, reaching Sanquhar Castle on the 31st July, 
where he was right royally entertained. Simpson, without 
disclosing his authority, gives the following traditional 
account of the festivities, which, notwithstanding the mani- 
fest touches of exaggeration here and there, has on the whole 
such an air of probability that it may be quoted : 

" The King, and Crichton, the lord of the manor, and at the time the 
occupant of the castle commonly called ' Crichton Peel,' had been very 
intimate companions, and James, on a tour through Scotland after he had 
ascended the English throne, came through Ayrshire and down Nithsdale 
to Sanquhar to visit Crichton in his peel. The occasion was one of great 
excitement and hilarity, and the rude populace of the strath poured forth 
in crowds to testify their fealty, and to witness the trappings of royalty. 
This visit being anticipated, Crichtou had prepared a sumptuous entertain- 
ment, so that when the King came, the stately avenue which led to the 
castle gate (and which in the last generation only was hewed down), the 
lofty trees arching overhead like a fretted gothic dome, was not only lined 
with people, but it is said with the goodly casks of the " bluid-red wine," 
which flowed copiously, and so copiously that the hoofs of the horses of 
the royal cavalcade were bathed in the ruddy stream. Within the peel the 
festivities were splendid, and such ' dancing and deray ' were never seen 
in old Sanquhar before nor since. The hall was lighted up with brilliancy, 
and the large castle lamp, placed in the centre of the festive board, was 

84 History of Sanqukar. 

graced with a wick well-pleasing to the King, but rather costly to his host : 
for Crichton, stepping forward with a lordly port, in presence of his 
sovereign and all the guests, extracting the blazing wick from the lamp, 
inserted another of a cylindrical form, made of parchment, containing a 
large account of a sum of borrowed money against the King, which the 
noble-minded baron, in the excess of his loyalty, committed to the flames, 
and thus extinguished the debt for ever." 

Another version of the story of the burning of the bond is 
that Crichton crowned the evening's entertainment by rolling 
it into the form of a torch and lighting the King to bed with 
it. Whatever form it took, it was a dramatic display of reck- 
less loyalty, which could not but be highly gratifying to the 
King. One naturally wonders, however, what Crichton himself 
thought of it and of the whole matter of the King's visit, 
when he had time to reflect and to count up the cost. Then, 
as well as now, a royal visit to a noble was esteemed a high 
honour, but there was a reverse side to the shield in the 
enormous expense to which the host was necessarily put in 
providing entertainment worthy of a visitor of such high 
distinction, so that, unless he were possessed of princely 
resources, the depletion of his coffers effectually prevented 
him for many a day from forgetting the visit of his sovereign 
lord. This was emphatically so in Lord Crichton's case. 
The family was one that had held its ground all through the 
vicissitudes of a stormy period of our nation's history, during 
which many a noble house had suffered dire eclipse, if not 
total extinction. They had proved themselves men of 
capacity, and, by deeds of heroic and honourable service to 
the state, had claimed a place among the nobility of the land, 
and earned the gratitude and favours of sovereigns. They 
had obtained the marks of the royal confidence in having 
entrusted to them responsible office, and, having achieved 
high social rank, they sued, and sued not in vain, for the 
hand in marriage of ladies of noble houses. On this 31st 
day of July, 1617, the sun of the house of Crichton may be 
said to have reached its zenith, but it hasted rapidly to its 
setting. The very glory of the house led to its extinction. 

History of Sanquhar. 85 

We read that the expense of the royal visit, and the magna- 
nimous though ostentatious destruction of the King's bond, 
reduced Lord Sanquhar to such a condition of poverty that 
he was compelled some dozen years after to sell his estates. 
" Sic transit gloria mundi." 

Shortly after this time Lord Sanquhar forsook his baronial 
residence at Sanquhar Castle, and removed into Ayrshire, to 
the vicinity of Cunmock. His reason for so doing is not, so 
far as is known, recorded. It is possible that, finding his 
resources seriously crippled by the entertainment of the King, 
and being compelled to adopt a modest style of living and 
expenditure, this proud-spirited lord could not brook that 
those about him should contrast his poverty-stricken condi- 
tion with the former greatness of his estate, and moved into 
a new locality where this contrast could not be drawn. la- 
the curtailment of his power of outward display, however, he 
was not without consolation, for in 1622 he was created 
Viscount of Ayr, and in 1633 Earl of Dumfries and Lord 
Kumnock. These marks of his sovereign's favour could not 
but be exceedingly gratifying, affording proof, as they did, 
that the King was not forgetful of his ancient and honour- 
able lineage, and of the services he had himself rendered to 
his country. Absence seems, however, to have loosened his 
attachment to his patrimonial estates, or sheer necessity to 
have compelled their relinquishment. At all events, in 
1639, he sold the whole barony of Sanquhar to the Earl of 
Queensberry. (See Appendix.) Thus terminated the con- 
nection of the Crichton family with Sanquhar and Upper 
Nithsdale, an event which, even now, one cannot but regret. 
It can easily be imagined what a difference it would have 
made to Sauquhar had the Crichtons remained in possession 
of their patrimonial estate, and in occupation of their noble 

Though the Crichtons from this time had no connection 
with Sanquhar, it seems proper to trace their genealogy 
down to the present day. In succession to the first Earl of 

86 History of Sanquhar. 

Dumfries, William, second Earl, his son, had one son, Charles, 
who died before him, leaving a son, William, afterwards third 
Earl, and four daughters, Penelope, Margaret, Mary, and 
Elizabeth. William, second Earl, surrendered all his honours, 
and obtained a new patent for them, with precedency accord- 
ing to the former patents, and with limitation to each of the 
children of Charles, Lord Crichton, and the heirs of their 
bodies respectively, failing which, to the nearest heirs what- 
soever of the said Charles, Lord Crichton. The second Earl 
died in 1691, and William, third Earl, died unmarried in 
1694, when he was succeeded by his eldest sister, Penelope. 
She married the Hon. William Dalrymple, second son of 
John, first Earl of Stair, by whom she had William, fifth 
Earl, and also Earl of Stair, who died without surviving 
issue in 1763, and a daughter, Lady Elizabeth, who married 
John Macdowall, Esq., and had issue Patrick, who succeeded 
his uncle as sixth Earl, and assumed the name of Crichton ; 
he was born 1726 and died in 1803, having married, 1771, 
Margaret, daughter of ftonald Crawford, of Restalrig, Co. 
Edinburgh, by whom he had only one surviving child, Lady 
Elizabeth-Penelope, who was married to John, Viscount 
Mountstuart, eldest son of John, first Marquis of Bute, by 
whom she was mother of John, the seventh Earl of Dumfries, 
and second Marquis of Bute. 

The present Marquis of Bute is therefore the lineal 
descendant, by the female line, of the ancient Crichton 
family of Sanquhar, whose titles are the oldest held by the 
Marquis, being 1488, Baron Crichton of Sanquhar ; 1622, 
Viscount of Ayr ; 1633, Earl of Dumfries and Baron 
Crichton of Cumnock. 

The following ancient ballad is given by Simpson in his 
history, but whence derived he does not say, describing one 
or other of the many thieving raids committed by the famous 

History of Sanquhar. 87 

Annandale reivers, and setting forth in an interesting manner 
the summoning of the clans and their methods of warfare : 

heard ye o' that dire affray 

Befel at Crichton Peel, man ; 
How the reeving bands o' Annandale, 
Of a' the border thieves the wale, 

In heaps fell on the field, man ? 

A pale light flickered in the copse, 

Beneath the castle wa', man ; 
It gleamed a moment like a star, 
The boding wraith o' coming war, 

And glintit through the ha', man. 

The foemen in the wald are hid, 

They came at dusk o' e'en, man ; 
And far, far distant is our lord, 
And no assistance can afford 

He hunts round dark Lochskeen, man. 

For Megget's lord and Bodsbeck's chiefs 

Wi' him wha ne'er had feud, man, 
Longed to return him friendly cheer, 
And feast upon the fallow deer 

Within their castles guid, man. 

And he has gane wi' horsemen too, 

All henchmen true and brave, man, 
And few are left within the hold, 
Of clansmen leal and warriors bold, 

To handle lance or glaive, man. 

The warder blaws his bugle loud, 

It sounds far o'er the wild, man, 
Tell Clenrie's clan and Carco's men 
Their flocks within their folds to pen, 

And arm and tak' the field, man. 

The lady in the Peel sits wae, 

Her heart shakes like the leaf, man, 
To think her lord is far away, 
With hounds he keeps the stag at bay, 

But brings her no relief, man. 

Rouse up the men o' Yochan fair, 

The dwellers on the Scar, man, 
The bravest sons o' Mennick's rills, 
Frae a' the woods the songster fills, 

The bowmen frae the Snar, man. 

88 History of Sanquhar. 

Ye doughty sons o' Crawick's sweet vale, 

Frae where Powcraigy roars, man, 
In a' yer glens and fairy neuks, 
In a' yer dells and winding cruicks, 
Come forth in warlike corps, man. 

Haste wi' the news to Enoch's lord, 
. Shout at Drumlanrig's tower, man ; 
Tell a' the forts in " auld Disdeer," 
And a' the holds in wooded Keir, 
Their stalwart force to pour, man. 

Bleeze up the bales, let the beacons flare 

On the peak o' ilka cairn, man ; 
Let the fiery cross the tidings flash, 
And rouse each chieftain from his marsh, 
Afar through wild Carsphairn, man. 

Let all the clans frae Corsaiicone 
To Kello's bosky stream, man, 
All from Kirkconnel.s sunny braes, 
Wha in the sweetest woodland strays, 
For war resign the team, man. 

The page, like arrow from the bow, 

Out by the postern fled, man, 
And hasting o'er the moorland wastes, 
Charged with his lady's high behests, 
To noble Douglas sped, man. 

He chased his way up winding Crawk, 

He plunged through Spango's stream, man, 
And crossed Duneaton's sable flood, 
And o'er the grassy plain did scud, 
And through the flowering green, man. 

At Glespin's peel his horn he blew, 
The warder heard the toot, man, 
The page's welcome voice he knew, 
The iron bolt he quickly drew, 
And echoed back the shout, man ! 

Gae, tell Moss-castle's swarthy lord 

The plight of Sanquhar's dame, man ; 
For I'm in haste to gude Lord James, 
Whose aid is prompt in doleful times 
That knight of fairest fame, man. 

History of Saiiqukar. 89 

Next to the laird of Gilker's-cleuch, 

Let it not be unknown, man, 
Rouse every hold of warriors bold, 
In every fen and every wold 

In mossy Crawfordjohn, man. 

Syne pass the haunted auld kirkyard, 

By lone Glengonar's stream, man, 
And the dreary glen where the wild winds rave, 
And the heath-screened mouth of the weird man's cave, 
And the wheeling linn where the kelpies lave 

Their limbs by the pale moonbeam, man. 

The nimble page his way now sped, 

Through rough Glentaigart's moors, man, 

Where'many a bewildered wight, 

Losing his way on misty night, 

Or lured to follow will-wisp light, 
Deep in the moss- hag lairs, man. 

But lair'd not thus the faithful page, 

For light of foot was he, man ; 
And on and on his willing road, 
With ceaseless feet, the heath he trode, 

As mew skims o'er the sea, man. 

Ho! stop thee, page, a shepherd cried, 

What makes thee run-for dread, man ? 
Hush ! tell your master, Carmacoup, 
Wha ne'er wi' foe refused to cope, . 

To haste and join the raid, man. 

And up the lea of Anershaw, 

And past the dead man's grave, man, 
And eerie trode the dread black gait 
Where erst lone stranger met his fate, 

And left Earnsalloch cave, man. 

And now the towers of famed St. Bride 

Loomed in the vale beneath, man, 
Where dangled traitor high in air, 
As shown by lightning's vivid glare, 
His visage marked by deep despair 

A sight full grim to see, man. 

And now he sprang the bastion o'er, 

As fleet as roe might be, man, 
The owl was still, the hour was late, 
He stood before the castle gate, 

And raised his voice^on high, man. 


90 History of Sanquhar. 

! haste thee for our lady fair ; 

Brave Douglas, 'fend the right, man, 
Rouse up your warriors feat and leal, 
March, march wi' speed to Crichton Peel, 

Wi' jaque and mail bedight, man. 

The noble Douglas heard the call, 

And out his forces drew, man, 
And all in glee for warlike raid, 
In armour bright full well arrayed, 

Through moss and wold they flew, man. 

Ere dawn of day old Sanquhar heard 

The Douglas slogan shrill, man, 
Which soon bade every fear depart, 
And quick made every drooping heart 
Wi' martial ardour thrill, man. 

The clans on every side pour in, 
Like ravens to the wood, man, 
And all the gallant band wi' speed, 
In the dool hour of Crichton's need, 
The reevers fierce withstood, man. 

Of all the brave and soothfast friends, 
The Douglas gained the meed, man ; 
For none in feats with him might share, 
Though many a belted knight was there, 
And wight of noble deed, man. 

For he, where pressed the thickest foes, 

The fiercest onslaught made, man, 
And ne'er retired one foot-breadth back, 
But forward urged with eager shock, 
And on the sward them laid, man. 

Most valiant was that hero's heart, 

When plunged in densest throng, man, 
And keen his glaive and from his arm 
The which with lusty blows did harm 
On all who sought his wrong, man. 

But generous was that chieftain brave, 

When victory to him fell, man ; 
He ne'er was known his conquered foe 
To triumph o'er when once laid low, 
Or him in wrath revile, man, 

Histoi'y of Saiujuhar. 91 

The clansmen all their valour proved, 

On that eventful morn, man, 
And many deeds of high renown, 
The whilk were worthy to hand down 

From sire to child unborn) man. 

But Enoch's lord and Carco's chief, 

'Mang foremost there were seen, man, 
And, urging on against the foe, 
Dealt many a vengeful, deadly blow, 
And trode the slain their feet below, 

Upon that blood-stained green, man. 

The valiant knight of Morton's Tower, 

A courtly dress he wore, man, 
With golden belt, his monarch's gift, 
All glittering round his princely waist 
But reivers' hands with greedy haste 

The gorgeous cincture tore, man. 

But fell reprisals soon were ta'en, 

When the baron's wrath arose, man, 
For wildly on the foe he pressed, 
And yarely he the wrong redressed, 

And man on man o'erthrows, man. 

The reivers bold in their assault 

Most desperate deeds performed man, 
And fought like lions in the fray, 
For well they knew a luckless day 
Would send but few of them away 

From that proud peel they stormed, man. 

The warder from the castle high, 

Wha eager watched the strife, man, 
Saw in the distance horsemen ride ; 
Fight on ! our valiant friends, he cried, 
Fresh succours now I have espied, 
Brave Thristane's aid is ne'er denied 

He kens the thieves frae Dryfe, man. 

'Twas Crichton's lord who on, with speed, 

With his brave henchmen came, man, 
In time, before the clans dispart, 
To thank each warrior from the heart, 

Of gude and trusty name, man. 

92 History of Sanquhar. 

And now the wassail in the hall, 

And revelry began, man ; 
The minstrel tuned his harp wi' skill, 
The loud notes soon the hold did fill, 
While he their warlike deeds did tell, 

And praised each valorous clan, man. 

The reivers fierce frae Annandale 

Were worsted in the fray, man, 
And few returned to that sweet vale, 
To tell their friends the waeful tale, 
Who deeply did their fate bewail, 
And never sought they to assail 
Old Crichton Peel for their avail 

E'en from that dismal day, man. 

In concluding the chapter on the Crichtons, notice may be 
taken 'of a curious and interesting relic, the handiwork of 
one of the ladies of the Castle, Lady Isabel Penelope 
Crichton. The relic consists of an ancient specimen of what 
is called a Sampler, or specimen of needlework, not differing 
greatly in style from those still worked by school girls in 
country parts, which may frequently be seen framed and 
hung up in their homes. It bears date 1501, and is quite 
fresh after the lapse of 390 years. It is sewn on linen 
canvas, the colours employed being crimson, purple, brown, 
green, pink, and straw. It contains all the letters of the 
alphabet, the nine digits, and some ornamental figures. It 
bears on the one side the pious rnotto " Giv God the first 
and last of the des thoght ;" and on the reverse side the 
following verse of Scripture : " Mathov vii. 10 WhatsoiAer 
I would that men should do to yov, do I eAen so to them ; 
for this is the la and the profets," together with the initials 
" I.P." on its face. The figure 5 in the date is not well 
formed, through the stitching being carried a trifle too high 
at the one end, but it corresponds in its main outlines with 
the form of the figure given in printed lists of pattern letters 
and figures for the guidance of the workers of samplers. If 
it is not a good 5, it certainly bears no resemblance to a 6 or 
a 7, and that it could be an 8 is impossible, for its existence 

History of Sanquhar. 93 

prior to 1801 is certain. " The first English translation of 
the Bible known is supposed to bear the date 1290 ; the 
next was by Wyckliffe, about 1380. These were in manu- 
script, and consequently the price was enormous. In the 
year 1429, a copy of Wyckliffe's New Testament cost about 
40. It was probably a manuscript copy of this translation 
from which Lady Isabel Crichton copied into her sampler 
the verse from ' Mathov.' It. was the tenth verse in 
Wyckliffe's copy, and the twelfth in ours. The peculiarity 
lies in the ancient spelling, and in using the ' v ' in the 
inverted form." Till the year 1886, the sampler was put 
together in the form of a bag, the mouth of which was drawn 
by a silk string. It is in the possession of Miss Bramwell of 
St. Helen's, Sanquhar, having come into the hands of her 
grandfather, Mr John Bramwel], in a rather peculiar way. 
Mr Bramwell was manager of the lead-mines of Waulock- 
head for the Marquis of Bute, who had them under lease 
from the Duke of Buccleuch, and the gold from Dumfries 
House, for the payment of the miners' wages, was, on one 
occasion, sent to him in this bag. Its present possessor, 
finding the work giving way under the handling of the 
curious, unpicked the side seams, fastened it down on a fresh 
foundation, and had it framed under glass. An open space 
is left at the back to show the piece of red silk riband 
inside of the bag, on which is worked " Isabel Pen. s - Y -" 
corresponding to the initials " I.P." on the face of the 
sampler. The small letters " S.Y." have been supposed to 
be the initial letters of Sanquhar and Yochan. That the 
" S " signifies Sanquhar is probable enough, but we know of 
no good reason for connecting the " Y " with Yochan. The 
lands there were never spoken of as a separate or distinct 
portion of the barony of Sanquhar, nor were the Crichton 
family identified with it any more than with other parts of 
the lands which they held. The sampler has been in the 
possession of Miss Bramwell's family for a hundred years. 
Miss Bramwell is likewise possessed of a silk handkerchief, 

94 History of Sanqukar. 

the story of which is given by Dr Simpson in the following 
form. It relates to the period when the Castle was owned 
by the Queensberry family, that is, subsequent to 1630. 
" One of the young ladies was, it is said, of a rather delicate 
constitution, and her medical advisers prescribed the use of 
the milk of a jet-black cow, as having in it more than 
ordinary virtue. Accordingly, it was found that a man of 
the name of Dripps, who lived at the Townhead of Sanquhar, 
possessed a cow of this description, and immediate application 
was made to him for the necessary supply of the medicinal 
article. A little daughter of his was sent one morning to 
the Castle with the milk for the lady. She came arrayed in 
a little scarlet cloak, the bright colour of which attracted the 
attention of a flock of geese and turkeys that were strolling 
on the green before the Castle, exactly on her way to the 
gate. On her near approach the congregated fowls set up a 
loud screaming, spread abroad their wings, and opening wide 
their bills, assailed the poor girl, who was nearly frightened 
out of her wits, and would have died through sheer terror 
had not one of the ladies observed the circumstance from 
her window, and hastened to her rescue. The poor thing 
was so agitated that the lady had enough ado to soothe her, 
and to bring her to her wonted calmness. The lady then 
presented her with a fine silk handkerchief, a rare thing in 
those days." It is this identical article which is in Miss 
Brarnwell's possession. 

A gruesome story is further told by Simpson of an accident 
that occurred to one of the ladies of the Castle. " In these 
early times it was probably more customary than now for 
females of the higher families to occupy themselves in domestic 
matters, and the ladies in the Castle were taught to assist in 
the laundry. It happened that one day one of the ladies 
was busy dressing her muslins, and for this purpose was 
using a ' box-iron.' In those days the females wore what 
were termed ' barrel-breasted ' stays, which implies that they 
were open at the top. When the young lady had inserted 

History of Sanquhar. 95 

the heater in the box she forgot to fix it, and holding it near 
her face to feel if it was not too hot for her purpose, the glow- 
ing iron fell plump into her bosom, between the stays and 
her breast. Her agony was dreadful. Nothing could save 
her, and in a brief space she expired." 

The Barony and Castle of Sanquhar were sold by Lord 
Crichton to Sir William Douglas, Viscount of Drumlanrig, 
who was created Earl of Queensberry in 1639. This noble 
resided in Sanquhar Castle during the building of Drum- 
lanrig. On its completion, he removed to his new and 
splendid seat, but it is said he only stayed one night there. 
He became unwell overnight, but the house being very large, 
and the internal arrangements apparently not well considered, 
he was unable to call his servants, and returned, disgusted, to 
the Peel at Sanquhar for the rest of his days. He was, like- 
wise, so ashamed of the heavy accounts connected with the 
erection of the Castle of Drumlanrig, and was so anxious 
that his folly in incurring such enormous expense should 
pass into oblivion, that he made a bundle of the same, upon 
which he wrote on the outside the words " The deil pyke 
oot his een that looks herein." 

In the Douglas vault in the Church of Durisdeer there is 
a coffin with the inscription, " Lord George Douglas." He 
was third son to William, first Duke, and died unmarried at 
Sanquhar in July, 1693. Also, a lead coffin with inscription, 
" James Douglas, Duke of Queensberry and Dover." He 
was born at Sanquhar Castle, 18th December, 1662, and was 
educated at Glasgow University. This is the Union Duke, 
so called because he was mainly instrumental in bringing 
about the union of the English and Scottish Parliaments in 
1707, for which he suffered much obloquy. He died in 1711. 


THE E L L i o c K FAMILY. 

!)INOR branches of the Crichton family owned 
several properties in the district. Chief among 
these was the Elliock family, of whom sprang 
the first Lord Elliock and his renowned son, The 
Admirable Crichton. 
Of Robert Crichton of Elliock, Lord Advocate, we have 
the following notice in Brunton's " Historical Account of 
the Senators of the College of Justice ": 

"1581, February 1. Robert Crichton of Elliock, Lord 
Advocate, supposed to have been son of another Robert 
Crichton, and father of the Admirable Crichton. He was 
appointed Lord Advocate, jointly with John Spens of Condie, 
on the 8th of February, 1560. He appears to have been 
favourable to the Queen's cause in the beginning of her 
son's reign, and was sent for by that princess into England 
after the death of the Regent Murray. Lennox, however, 
prevented this, having made Elliock find caution to the 
extent of 4000 Scots that he should not leave the city of 
Edinburgh. This feeling was probably the reason why, on 
the death of Spens in 1573, he was not appointed to his 
place on the bench, which was given to David Borthwick of 
Lochhill, who was at the same time appointed joint Advocate. 
On the 6th January, 1580, he obtained a letter from the 
King, declaring it to be the royal pleasure that he should, 
upon Borthwick 's decease, succeed to his place in the Session, 
and continue sole Advocate ; and he procured a similar letter 

History of Sanquhar. 97 

on the 7th December preceding, requiring them to admit 
him during Borthwick's sickness, but it does not appear that 
he took his seat until the 1st of February, 1581, after the 
decease of his colleague. He was, in 1581, appointed one of 
the Parliamentary Commissioners for Reformation of Hospi- 
tals. He died between the 18th June, 1582, when he made 
his testament, and the 27th of that month." 

He was probably a brother of Lord Sanquhar. He was 
married three times. His first wife was Elizabeth Stewart, 
a descendant of Robert, Duke of Albany, son of Robert II. 
King of Scotland, by whom he had two sons, James (the 
Admirable Crichtou) and Robert. James died in the same 
year as his father, 1582, and probably it was his brother 
Robert who sold the estate to Dalyell (afterwards Earl of 

The Admirable Crichton was, in some respects, the most 
distinguished of the whole family, shedding, by the splendour 
of his talents and accomplishments, a lustre upon the name 
which he bore. Were it not that the extraordinary powers 
of this intellectual prodigy are fairly well authenticated, we 
might be disposed to reject the story of his brief and brilliant 
career as a gross exaggeration. It reads more like a tale of 
romance than the sober truth. The title which he earned 
was bestowed upon him by his contemporaries on account of 
the great brilliancy of his mental gifts arid the versatility of 
his other accomplishments. He flashed like a splendid 
meteor across the literary firmament of Europe. The follow- 
ing account of his career is given by Chambers : " He was 
educated at St. Andrews University. Before he reached 
his 20th year, he had, it seems, run through the whole circle 
of the sciences, mastered ten different languages, and per- 
fected himself in every knightly accomplishment. Thus 
panoplied in a suit of intellectual armour, Crichton rode out 
into the world of letters, and challenged all and sundry to a 
learned encounter. If we can believe his biographers, the 
stripling left every adversary who entered the lists against 


98 History of Sanquhar. 

him hors-de-combat. At Paris, Rome, Venice, Padua, 
Mantua, he achieved the most extraordinary victories in 
disputation on all branches of human knowledge, and excited 
universal admiration and applause. The beauty of his 
person and elegance of his manners also made him a great 
favourite with the fair ; while, as if to leave no excellence 
unattained, he vanquished in a duel the most famous 
gladiator in Europe. The Duke of Mantua, in whose city 
this perilous feat was performed, appointed him preceptor to 
his son, Vincentio de Gonzago, a dissolute and profligate 
youth. One night during the carnival, Crichton was attacked 
in the streets of Mantua by half-a-dozen people in masks. 
He pushed them so hard that their leader pulled off his 
mask and disclosed the features of the prince. With an 
excess of loyalty, which proved his death, Crichton threw 
himself upon his knees, and begged Vincentio's pardon, at 
the same time presenting him with his sword. The heartless 
wretch plunged it into the body of his tutor. Thus perished 
in the 22nd year of his age ' The Admirable Crichton.' " 
His birthplace has been disputed, owing to the fact that his 
father was also owner of the estate of Clunie, in Perthshire, 
where, one account has it, he was born. It is, however, 
affirmed that he was born at Elliock, and the chamber is still 
shewn where he first saw the light. That Elliock House is 
really entitled to the honour is proved by the fact that the 
purchase of Clunie by his father did not take place till two 
years after his birth. 

The estate of Elliock was sold to the Dalyells in 1592, and 
continued in the hands of that family down to the year 1725. 
These Dalyells were typical specimens of Scottish barons, 
fierce, turbulent, and lawless. Sir Robert lived on bad terms 
with Lord Sanquhar, his next neighbour. In the chapter on 
the Crichtons will be found an account of his appearance 
with his son to answer along with Lord Creichtoun to a 
charge of threatening. The Dalyells, father and sons, indeed, 
appear to have been a terror to the neighbourhood, Thus, 

History of Sanquhar. 99 

in 1598, Dalyell himself is bound over on a surety of 1000, 
and his two sons, Robert and Gawin, in sureties of 1000 
merks and 300 merks respectively " not to harm Mr Robert 
Hunter, minister at Sanquhar." Further, in the year 1602, 
it is charged against another son, Archibald, that he "having 
lately with his accomplices come at night to the pail of the 
lands of Sauchtounhall, belonging to Johnnie Morrisoun, and 
reft from him certain kye and oxen, and having come since 
then to the dwelling-house of Nicoll Dalyell, his father-in-law, 
and most cruelly assaulted him, so that he is yet ' lyand 
bedfast ' in great hazard of his life, charge had been given to 
his said father, and to Robert Dalyell, younger of that Ilk, his 
brother, by whom he is at all times resetted to enter him 
conform to the general bond. And, now, the said Robert, 
elder, appearing for himself and for the said Robert, younger, 
and producing a testimonial subscribed by the baillies of the 
town of Sanquhar and elders thereof, certifying that the said 
Robert, younger, is ' heavelie diseasit with sickness, and 
unable to travell,' the Lords excuse the absence of the said 
Robert, younger, but as the said Archibald has not been 
entered by the said Robert, elder, his father, ordain said 
Robert, elder, to enter in ward in the Castle of Edinburgh." 

The minister of Sanquhar, Mr Robert Hunter, above 
referred to, seems to have had a hard time of it at the hands 
of these masterful lords and barons. He received a rough 
and unceremonious handling in another part of the county, 
which is thus described in a complaint to the Council in 
1609, at the instance of Sir Thomas Harnmiltoun, for the 
King's interest, and by Mr Robert Hunter, minister at 
Sanquhar, as follows : 

"On Sunday, 3rd instant, Mr Robert having, at the command Arch- 
bishop of Glasgow, repaired to the Kirk of Kirkpatrick-Fleming, in 
Annanderdaill, to the ministers to the parishioners thereof according as it 
sould have pleasit God at his inercie to have niovit him. As soon as he 
had enterit the Kirkyard of the said Kirk, George Irvine of Woodhous, 
violent possessor of the teinds of the said Kirk, fearing to be removed from 
further melling with the said teinds, came armed with certain weapons, 

100 History of Sanquhar. 

and straitly forbade complainer to ' teitch ' the said day, or sould let him 
see a sicht that sould gar a cold sweitgo over his hairt. Accordinglie in 
the verie tyme of the sermon, defender gathered the under-named persons 
in some demit spots close to the Kirk, and as soon as Mr Robert came out 
of the Kirk, Irvine again accosted him, saying he had done him wrong 
afoir in slaying of Johne of Lockerbie, and now he was come to reve him 
of his teyndis, bot he sould at this tyme pay for all. Then he gave a shout, 
and he and said persons convocated with others to the number of 100, all 
armed with certain weapons, including hagbuts and pistolets, chased him 
and them a mile from the Kirk, wounding some." 

For this outrageous conduct Irving was committed to the 
ward in the Tolbooth of Edinburgh, and other two, who did 
not appear, were denounced rebels. 

Conduct of this sort was, however, not unusual in these 
times, nor was it any permanent bar to the favour of the 
sovereign, and so we find that Dalyell was, in 1628, created 
Baron Dalyell, and, in 1639, Earl of Camwath. The family 
had a town house in Sanquhar, which was called Lord 
Carnwath's house, the site of which is now covered by the 
property owned and occupied by the author of this history. 

In Symson's " Description of Galloway," published in 1684, 
it is said that " the Duke of Queensberry is superior to the 
lands of Elliock. It belongs to the Earl of Camwath in 
property, having the mansion-house Elliock situate in the 
bounds of it, a goodly fabrick formerly the dwelling place of 
the Baron of Dalyell, of which the Earles of Camwath are 
descended. This part of the parish is exceedingly well 
stored with wood, but now of late, by the cutting down of a 
great part of it, for the lead mines of Hopetouu in Clidesdale, 
and not parking of it afterwards, it is much decayed, and 
probably will decay more if, after the cutting of it, it be not 
more carefully enclosed for the futtire." 

The estate was purchased from Lord Camwath by William 
Veitch in 1725. He was of the family of that name which 
had flourished in Peeblesshire from a very early period. In 
Chambers' " History of Peebles " we have the following 
account of the family origin : " The mythic legend of the 

History of Sanquhar. 101 

Veitches explanatory of their name must not be omitted. 
The original of our name, says Robert Veitch of Campflat, 
was Gailard, a native of France, who came over to Scotland 
in the reign of Robert Bruce. He became a favourite of 
that king from being an alert hunter. Happening to dis- 
tinguish himself at a time when Robert was pent up in an 
encampment near Warkworth Castle, and his army in great 
want of provisions, Gailard bravely ventured his life by 
driving a herd of cattle in the night, by which means 
Robert's men so much revived that they made so vigorous a 
sally as next day secured them a safe retreat. Robert soon 
after coming to Peebles, where he had a hunting seat (the 
vestiges of which are now to be seen adjoining the Church 
of Peebles), it was then he thought proper to reward Gailard 
for his bravery by giving him the lands of Dawick upon the 
Tweed, and for his coat-of-arms three cows' heads, with the 
motto, ' Famum Extendimus Factis ' (we extend our fame 
by our deeds). At the same time he took the surname of 
Vache (French for a cow) by reason of its corresponding with 
the crest. It came to be different spelled afterwards through 
ignorance." Papers of Veitch of Campflats. 

" The originator of this story," Chambers remarks, " does 
not appear to have been aware that William La Vache, of 
the County of Peebles, figures in the Ragman Roll consider- 
ably before the date of the alleged exploit of Warkworth." 
Chambers' Hist. Peebles. 

In all probability, the first Veitch was one of the Normans 
who found their way into the southern part of Scotland in 
the reign of David. The headquarters of the family were at 
Dauwic (Dawyck), and we read that " at a later period, at 
the Union of the Crowns, they, as was the custom with 
barons whose estates lay near a town, had a town residence 
in Peebles, known latterly as " The Pillars," and situated on 
the north east of the site of the town cross." Veitch's Hist, 
and Poetry of the Border. 

The Veitches were strong of arm and stout of heart, as it 

1 02 History of Sanquhar. 

behoved all to be who had possessions on the border in those 
stirring days. Of one of them, Bishop Lesly relates the 
following tradition : " Veitch of Dawyk, a man of great 
strength and bravery, who flourished in the 16th century, is 
said to have been on bad terms with a neighbouring pro- 
prietor, Tweedie of Drummelzier. By some accident, a flock 
of Dawyk's sheep strayed over into Drummelzier's grounds, at 
the time when Dickie of the Den, a Liddesdale outlaw, was 
making his rounds in Tweeddale. Seeing this flock he drove 
them off without ceremony. Next morning Veitch, perceiv- 
ing his loss, summoned his servants and retainers, laid a 
bloodhound on the traces of the robber, by whom they were 
guided for many miles, till, on the banks of Liddel, the dog 
staid upon a very large hay-stack. The pursuers were a 
good deal surprised at the obstinate pause of the bloodhound, 
till Dawyk pulled down some of the hay, and discovered a 
large excavation, containing the robbers and their spoil. He 
instantly flew upon Dickie, and was about to poniard him, 
when the marauder, with the address noticed by Lesley, pro- 
tested that he would never have touched a cloot (hoof) of 
them had he not taken them for Drummelzier's property. 
This dexterous appeal to Veitch's passion saved the life of 
the freebooter." 

Professor Veitch, in his " History and Poetory of the Scot- 
tish Border," records that " This deadly feud between the 
Veitch es and the Tweedies had been kept up for generations, 
for one of the last acts of James VI., before he left for 
England, was to visit the district of Upper Tweeddale, with a 
view to staunch the bloody feud between the two lairds of 
Dawyck and Drummelzier, and imagined that he had 
succeeded, but no. At his Court at Greenwich, in 1611, he 
was disturbed by rumours of continued broils between these 
two families. He was old enough to remember people speak 
of the shuddering sensation which the news of a fatal hand- 
to-hand encounter between Dawyck and Drummelzier had 
created at the Scottish Court even in those times of atrocious 

History of Sdiiquhar. 103 

deeds. On a morning in early summer the two lairds had 
met by chance on the haugh of the Tweed. They were alone 
when they confronted each other. The memories of cen- 
turies of mutual violence and mutual deeds of blood were 
quickened in their hearts, and that strange, savage feeling 
of blood-atonement seemed to thrill in both. They agreed 
to settle the strife of centuries then and there. And tradi- 
tion tells us that, as the birds waked the June morn, Drum- 
melzier was found dead beside a bush, and the blood had 
stained the white blossoms of the hawthorn spray. Still the 
feud was carried on, and the King, in March ]611, in a 
proclamation, calls upon Lord Dunfermline and the other 
lords of the Privy Council to take steps to suppress this 
strife." This, then, would appear to have been one of 
the veiy last of those family quarrels, by which, for genera- 
tions, the whole of the Scottish Border had been kept in a 
state of perpetual disturbance and bloodshed. It is of this 
doughty race that the Veitches of Elliock are descended, of 
whom, as we shall see, some were distinguished in the arts 
of peace, as their forbears had been in the art of war. 

It would be erroneous to suppose that the William Veitch, 
who purchased from Lord Carnwath, was the first Veitch to 
figure in the history of Sanquhar, for in the ballad, " The 
Gallant Grahams" (Sir Walter Scott's Border Minstrelsy), 
one of the family is thus described 

" And gallant Veitch upon the field, 
A braver face was never seen. " 

This gallant Veitch, Sir Walter takes to be David, brother 
to Veitch of Dawyk, who, with many others of the Peebles- 
shire gentry, was taken at Philiphaugh. The following 
curious incident took place some years afterwards on the 
high street of Sanquhar, in consequence of his loyal zeal. 
It is related in Symson's " Description of Galloway" (1684) : 
" In the year 1653, when the loyal party did arise in arms 
against the English in the West and North Highlands, some 
noblemen and loyall gentlemen, with others, came forward to 

104 History of Sanquhar. 

repair to them with such parties as they could make, which 
the English, with marvellous diligence night and day, did 
bestir themselves to impede by making their troups of horse 
and dragoons to pursue the loyal party in all places, that 
they might not come to such a considerable number as was 
designed. It happened one night that one Captain Mason, 
commander of a troup of dragoons that came from Carlisle in 
England, marching through the town of Sanquhar in the 
night, was in the town of Sanquhar encountered by one 
Captain Palmer, commander of a troup of horse that came 
from Air, marching eastward and meeting at the townhouse 
or tolbooth, one David Veitch, brother of the Laird of Dawick 
in Tweddale, and one of the loyall party, being prisoner in 
irons by the English, did arise and came to the window at 
their meeting, and cryed out that they should fight valiantly 
for K. Charles, wherethrough they, taking each other for the 
loyall party, did begin a brisk fight, which continued for a 
while, till the dragoons having spent their shot, and finding 
the horsemen to be too strong for them, did give ground, 
but yet retired in some order toward the Castle of Sanquhar, 
being hotly pursued by the troup through the whole town, 
above a quarter of a mile, till they came to the castle, 
where both parties did, to their mutual grief, become sensible 
of their mistake. In this skirmish there were several killed 
on both sides, and Captain Palmer himself dangerously 
wounded, with many more wounded in each troup, who did 
peaceably dwell together afterwards for a time, until their 
wounds were cured in Sanquhar Castle." 

Carnwath's expenditure would appear to have been greatly 
beyond his means, and he had recourse to Veitch for loans 
of money, and, it is supposed, that in the end he had become 
so seriously embarrassed in his finances that he lost hope of 
redeeming the property, and so parted with it to the man to 
whom he was so heavily indebted. 

William Veitch 's son, James, was the second Lord Elliock, 
of whom we have the following account in Brunton's 
" Historical Account." 

History of Sanquhar. 105 

"1761, March 6th. James Veitch of Elliock, son of 
William Veitch of Elliock, was admitted advocate loth 
February, 1738, having previously served an apprenticeship 
with his father, who was a writer to the signet. Shortly 
after his admission to the bar, he visited the continent, and, 
when in Germany, was introduced to Frederick the Great, 
King of Prussia, and became so great a favourite with that 
illustrious monarch, that he remained a considerable time at 
his court, and after his return to Scotland, kept up a 
correspondence with him. He was constituted Sheriff- 
Depute of the county of Peebles, 13th July, 1747, elected 
representative for the county of Dumfries to Parliament in 
1755, and continued member for that county till 1760, when 
he was elevated to the bench, in the room of Andrew 
M'Dowal of Bankton, and took his seat on the 6th March by 
the title of Lord Elliock. He died at Edinburgh on the 1st 
of July, 1793. His Lordship was endowed with mental 
abilities of the first order, and was generally allowed to be 
one of the most accomplished scholars of his time." 

Lord Elliock was a tall, handsome man, and. during his 
residence at Frederick's Court, was urged to join the regiment 
of gigantic men which the king was forming. On his leaving 
the Prussian Court, Frederick presented him with a gold 
snuff-box as a token of his regard 

By Lord Elliock the estate of Elliock was entailed, the 
succession being confined strictly to the heirs male. The 
first heir of entail was in India at the time of Lord Elliock's 
death, but he died on his way home. The estate then passed 
to Colonel Henry Veitch, Commissioner of Customs, a nephew 
of Lord Elliock, who died in April, 1838. He was suceeded 
by his son, James, who was Sheriff at Hamilton for many 
years. The Sheriff was a tall man, but of slender and wiry 
figure. He was a great walker, and thought nothing of 
walking on foot in one day from Edinburgh, enjoying a day's 
shooting at Elliock, and returning on foot on the third day to 
the Metropolis. He was much respected in the district, and 


106 History of Sanjuhar. 

the Town Council of Sanquhar, in 1846, appointed him, un- 
solicited, to be their commissioner to the General Assembly 
of the Church of Scotland, which appointment he held 
undisturbed for 21 years. 

On his death, in 1873, he was succeeded by his younger 
brother, the Rev. William Douglas Veitch, who died at 
Elliock in 1884, and was succeeded by his son, the Rev. 
Henry George John Veitch, the present laird, who is related 
by marriage to the Buccleuch family, his deceased wife 
having been a sister of Cameron of Lochiel, who is married 
to a daughter of the late, and sister of the present Duke. 
He has a son, George Douglas Veitch. who is heir to the 
estate. It is gratifying to know that Elliock House has been 
more regularly occupied by the present owner and his father 
than during their predecessors' time. 

Elliock House is a plain, country mansion. The older 
portion of it would indicate that it had been erected not later 
than the sixteenth century, if not earlier than that time. 
The room in which the Admirable Crichton was born has a 
window facing the north-east. The house was enlarged by 
Lord Elliock, the second, by the erection of a wing at each 
end. Orders were given by his lordship that a room should 
be fitted up as a library. The workmen's conception of a 
library that would be suitable for Lord Elliock was that its 
greatness should correspond with the greatness of the man 
who was to occupy it, and so they constructed an enormous 
room with a gallery on all four sides, guarded with a 
plain railing, and reached by a spiral stone stair at the 
corner of the room. At Lord Elliock's next visit he was 
taken in to be shewn his new library. He no sooner entered, 
and saw this huge, cold, draughty room, with its over-hanging 
gallery, the whole destitute of the slightest attempt at 
architectural decoration, and conveying not the slightest 
suggestion of comfort, than he threw up his hands and 
exclaimed, in a scornful tone, "Good Heavens," and fled, 
never to enter it again. 

History of Sarujuhar. 107 

The house is mantled over with ivy, and stands beautifully 
situated on an elevated bank close to the Garple Burn, 
which flows through the woods. 

The talented Miss Sophia F. F. Veitch, the authoress of 
" A Lone Life/' " Angus Graeme," " James Hepburn," " Tho 
Dean's Daughter," and other works, which reveal powers of 
no common order, is a sister of the present proprietor of 


HE chapter of history which, perhaps more than any 
other, has made the name of Sanquhar famous, 
and, in the eyes of many, has been regarded as her 
chief distinction and glory, is the stand made by 
the pious peasantry of the south-western district of Scotland 
against the tyrannical dictation in matters ecclesiastical of 
the later members of the Stuart dynasty. Let us explain 
that the name the Covenanters borne by these protesters 
against the tyranny of the Stuarts, was derived from the two 
Covenants the National Covenant and the Solemn League 
and Covenant, the first signed in 1638, and the other in 
1643. The National Covenant was drawn up by the Presby- 
terian clergy, and was subscribed by a large number of 
persons of ail classes, and bound all who signed to spare no 
effort in the defence of the Presbyterian religion of Scotland 
against the attempts of Charles I. to enforce Episcopacy, or 
Prelacy, as the Covenanters preferred to call the system, and 
the liturgy on Scotland. Those who subscribed the National 
Covenant promised "to continue in obedience of the doctrine 
and discipline of the Presbyterian Kirk of Scotland." They 
also gave assent to various Acts of Parliament of the reign 
of James VI., which, besides repudiating the jurisdiction of 
the Pope and all the ritual of the Romish Church, ordain 
" all sayers, wilful hearers, and concealers of the mass, the 
maintainers and resettors of the priests, Jesuits, trafficking 
Papists, to be punished without any exception or restriction." 

History of Sanquhar. 109 

The Solemn League and Covenant was different in charac- 
ter from, and wider in its scope than, the National Covenant. 
The latter was a compact, in w.hich the King and the Scottish 
people alone were concerned (for Charles gave his adhesion 
to it), and was purely a religious or ecclesiastical movement, 
whilst the Solemn League and Covenant embraced the 
people of both the northern and southern kingdoms, and, as 
it was a compact between the Scottish people and tho 
English Parliament, it may be said to have had more of a 
political character than the other. Though Charles had 
adhered to the National Covenant, he had now broken with 
the English Parliament, set up his standard at Nottingham 
(August, 1642), and it was thought he might finally be iu a 
position to reinstate Episcopacy in Scotland. The Scottish 
people never were deluded with the belief that Charles's 
subscription of the National Covenant was a conscientious or 
willing act was, in truth, anything more than a piece of 
political strategy, whereby, amid his troubles with his English 
subjects, he sought to procure peace in the northern part of 
his kingdom, but believed that he would seize the first 
favourable opportunity to repudiate the agreement, carried 
through though it had been in a deliberate and solemn 
manner, and pursue the traditional policy of his house. 
The distrust they had of their monarch was confirmed and 
deepened by the perfidy of his dealings with the English 
people. Therefore it was, that they so willingly received 
overtures from the commissioners appointed by the English 
Parliament, to endeavour to come to an understanding for 
the common defence of their religious liberties against the 
designs of a monarch who belonged to a dynasty, several of 
whose members had shewn themselves of a tyrannical and 
despotic nature, and one of which proved a narrow-minded 
and bigoted puppet of Rome, having no sympathy, but a 
supreme contempt, for the liberties in matters religious, 
which the Scottish people claimed as a natural right. Hopes 
were held out by these commissioners that, in the event of 

110 History of Sanquhar. 

success against the King, the Presbyterian might be adopted 
as the form of Church government on both sides of the 
border, and in Ireland as well. The prospect thus held out 
of the triumph, not only in their own country of Scotland, 
but throughout the whole realm, of the ancient ecclesiastical 
forms, which alone they thought scriptural, and to 
which they were therefore devotedly attached, roused the 
Scottish people to a high pitch of enthusiasm, and so we find 
that the Solemn League and Covenant was largely signed by 
all ranks and classes in Scotland, and was ratified by the 
General Assembly at Edinburgh in August, 1643, and by 
the Scottish Parliament in July, 1644. One of the provisions 
of this agreement was that the Scotch should send an army 
into England in aid of the Parliamentary forces against the 
King, and this was done in January, 1644. While, therefore, 
the National Covenant was purely an ecclesiastical compact, 
and referred to the preservation of the Presbyterian polity in 
Scotland alone, the Solemn League and Covenant had a 
political as well as a religious aspect. It was much more 
comprehensive in its terms than the other. Those who 
subscribed it make a profession of " attachment to the Church 
of Scotland, and bind themselves to endeavour a uniformity in 
religion and church discipline in the three kingdoms ;" and, 
further " That we shall, in like manner, without respect of 
persons, endeavour the extirpation of popery, prelacy (that is, 
church government by archbishops, bishops, their chancellors, 
and commissaries, deans, deans and chapters, archdeacons, 
and all other ecclesiastical officers depending on that hier- 
archy), superstition, heresy, schism, profaneuess, and what- 
soever shall be found to be contrary to sound doctrine and 
the power of godliness, lest we partake in other men's sins, 
and thereby be in. danger to receive of their plagues ; and 
that the Lord may be one, and his name one, in the three 

Such were the two famous Covenants, enforced at the 
time by civil penalties, from which their adherents in Scot- 

History oj Sanquhar. Ill 

land derived the name of the Covenanters, and in defence of 
which they contended and suffered during the period between 
the Restoration and the Revolution, a period during which 
the arrogant claims of the Romish Church were put forward 
in their most offensive form, and were sought to be enforced 
in the most brutal and arbitrary manner. Acting through a 
monarch, weak and bigoted, between whom and his people 
the relations were those of mutual distrust and suspicion, 
the Papists put forth the most strenuous efforts to 
trample down the religious freedom of a liberty -loving people. 
With a blind infatuation, this policy of insolent repression 
was pursued till the cup of iniquity was full. Meanwhile, 
William of Orange was keeping a watchful eye on the course 
of events, and choosing well his time he, when his foot 
touched English soil, was hailed with universal acclamation 
as a heaven-sent deliverer. In an incredibly short period the 
revolution was complete, the schemes of a cunning and 
insolent priesthood were for ever shattered, and the last of a 
race of tyrants was chased from the throne. 

In this long struggle between the Crown, backed up and 
instigated by an alien power and influence, and a high- 
spirited people, the name of Sanquhar holds a prominent 
place. It stands, as has been said, in the centre of the 
district where the stoutest resistance was offered, and where 
the persecution was carried out in its most relentless form. 
The principles of the Covenanters were warmly embraced by 
the dwellers in this pastoral region, largely composed of the 
shepherd and cottar class, who have been for generations the 
very cream of the Scottish peasantry. Men they were who 
lived " quiet and peaceable lives, in all godliness and 
honesty," but, on that very account, all the more devoted and 
determined in the maintenance of what they conceived to be 
not merely their ordinary rights as citizens of a free country, 
but the truth of God as contained in the Scriptures, and in 
the standards of their beloved Kirk. They were inspired, 
therefore, in their endurance of cruelty and persecution not 

112 History of Sanquhar. 

only by that patriotic ardour which for generations had 
shewn itself so strong an element in the Scottish character, 
but by a deep sense of religious obligation. On their faith- 
ful adherence to the principles of the Covenant depended, in 
their view, not simply their well-being in this life, but their 
very hopes of Heaven. Therefore it was that they cheerfully 
suffered the spoiling of their goods, and surrendered all their 
worldly prospects and the comforts and joys of domestic life. 
They answered with a readiness and force which, in many 
cases, put to silence their accusers, and they bore them- 
selves in the presence of death with a Christian calmness 
and fortitude which baffled and enraged their persecutors, 
and gained favour with the people. 

For generations their names have been revered and 
their memories cherished among the Scottish people as 
those of men of whom the world was not worthy, to whose 
faithfulness we in large measure owe the religious, and, in a 
certain degree, the political liberty we now so fully enjoy. 
Of late years, however, a disposition has manifested itself on 
the -part of certain writers to disparage the Covenanters as a 
set of religious fanatics, bigoted quite as much as the papists 
whom they so cordially hated, and to represent their attitude 
to the ruling powers as, from the political point of view, 
treason, which the authorities were quite justified in sup- 
pressing and punishing. No doubt there are certain acts arid 
expressions of theirs which it is impossible to palliate or 
defend, and, to our mind, an error is committed when it is 
sought to justify their every word and deed. To do so raises 
the question of the relations between religion and politics 
the use of the sword in defence of religious opinion and 
religious privilege. Simpson, the historian of the Covenanters, 
whose admiration of them was unbounded, in reference to 
the two famous Declarations at Sanquhar, takes no exception 
to their terms, but claims that they were " the focus into 
which were gathered those scattered political doctrines which 
were formerly avowed in the Covenants, but which had been 

History of Sanquhar. 113 

obscured by a long reign of despotism, and from which again 
they radiated in every direction, enlightening men's minds, 
and producing a fuller conviction of their justness and 
expediency, till at length the nation, as a whole, proceeded 
to act upon them, and annihilated the wretched usurpation of 
a tyrant. . . . Within the walls of this little burgh was 
heard the first blast of that trumpet which eventually roused 
the attention of the realm, and summoned its energies to the 
overthrow of a despotism under which it had groaned for 
nearly thirty years. The earliest tramplings of the feet of 
the great host which ultimately effected the Revolution were 
heard in the streets of Sanquhar." He further quotes from 
a writer that " the Standard of the Covenanters on the 
mountains of Scotland indicated to the vigilant eye of 
William that the nation was ripening for a change. They 
expressed what others thought, uttering the indignations and 
the groans of a spirited and oppressed people. They investi- 
gated and taught, under the guidance of feelings, the 
reciprocal duties of kings and subjects, the duty of self-defence 
and of resisting tyrants, the generous principle of assisting the 
oppressed, in their language helping the Lord against the 
mighty. . . . While Lord Russell and Sydney, and other 
enlightened patriots of England, were plotting against Charles 
from a conviction that his right was forfeited, the Covenanters 
of Scotland, under the same conviction, had courage to declare 
war against him. Both the plotters and the warriors fell, 
but their blood watered the plant of renown, and succeeding 
ages have eaten the pleasant fruit." 

It is such blind and indiscriminating laudation of the 
Covenanters and all their works that has provoked the hostile 
criticism of several subsequent writers. Whether, however, 
it be admitted or whether it be denied that the Covenanters 
were justified in their utterances, and in the attitude which 
they, as a party, assumed towards the civil authority, there 
is a general agreement as to their private worth as indi- 
viduals and the godly lives, according to their light, which 


114 History of Sanquhar. 

they led ; and the record of the manly struggle in which they 
engaged forms an interesting chapter in the history of civil 
and religious freedom. 

The town of Sanquhar was situated in the very centre of 
the theatre of persecution during this dark and troubled 
time. In the eyes of the persecuted remnant it was a place 
of importance, and Chambers has happily named it the 
" Canterbury of the Covenanters." Fugitives from the east 
or west naturally turned to it in their flight, for the passage 
of the Nith was always open by the bridge opposite the 
town, and was the only reliable means of escape from their 
pursuers. It was the only town of any size within a radius 
of many miles, and, being a royal burgh, it was a place of 
some political standing. Hence, as Chambers says, " when- 
ever any remarkable political movement was going on in the 
country, these peculiar people were pretty sure to come to 
the cross of Sanquhar and utter a testimony on the subject." 
It was at Sanquhar cross that Richard Cameron's Declaration 
was published, which was commonly called " The Sanquhar 
Declaration," and was a most daring and outspoken expres- 
sion of the Covenanters' view of the political situation and 
their attitude thereto. Not content with a declaration of 
the right of liberty of conscience in the matter of religion, 
the authors of it, as will be seen by a perusal of the document, 
foreswear their civil allegiance to the reigning monarch, and 
protest against the succession to the throne of the Duke 
of York. And, further, they do not hesitate to declare their 
readiness to appeal to the use of arms, if need be, in defence 
of their position. The inevitable result, of course, was that, 
coming immediately after the affair at Both well Bridge, the 
attention of the authorities was now more especially attracted 
to this part of the country, and regarding the manifesto, as 
it was natural for them to do, as a document of a highly 
treasonable character, they renewed the work of putting 
down the " hill-folk " with redoubled zeal and fury. " Do 
you own the Sanquhar Declaration ?" was a test question, an 

History of Sanquhar. 115 

affirmative answer to which settled the fate of the individual, 
whether he was caught by the military or arraigned before 
the council. The following is a copy of this famous docu- 
ment : - 

The. Declaration and Testimony of the true Presbyterian, Anti-Prelatic, 
Anti-Erastian, persecuted party in Scotland. Published at Sanquhar, 
June 22, 1680. 

" It is not amongst the smallest of the Lord's mercies to this poor land 
that there have been always some who have given their testimony against 
every cause of defection that many are guilty of, which is a token for 
good, that He doth not as yet intend to cast us off altogether, but that He 
will leave a remnant in whom He will be glorious, if they, through His 
grace, keep themselves clean still, and walk in His way and method, as it 
has been walked in, and owned by Him in our predecessors of truly worthy 
memory ; in their carrying on of our noble work of reformation, in the 
several steps thereof, from popery, prelacy, and likewise Erastian supre- 
macy, so much usurped by him who, it is true, so far as we know, is 
descended from the race of our kings ; yet he hath so far debased from 
what he ought to have been, by his perjury and usurpation in Church 
matters, and tyranny in matters civil, as is known by the whole land, that 
we have just reason to account it one of the Lord's great controversies 
against us that we have not disowned him and the men of his practises, 
whether inferior magistrates or any other, as enemies to our Lord and His 
crown, and the true Protestant Presbyterian interest in this land, and our 
Lord's espoused bride and Church. Therefore, though we be for govern- 
ment and governors, such as the Word of God and our Covenant allow ; 
yet we, for ourselves, and all that will adhere to us as the representatives 
of the true Presbyterian Kirk and covenanted nation of Scotland, con- 
sidering the great hazard of lying under such a sin any longer, do by these 
presents, disown Charles Stuart, that has been reigning, or rather tyran- 
nising, as we may say, on the throne of Britain these years bygone, as 
having any right, title to, or interest in, the said crown of Scotland for 
government, as forfeited, several years since, by his perjury and breach of 
covenant both to God and His Kirk, and usurpation of his crown and royal 
prerogatives therein, and many other breaches in matters ecclesiastical, 
and by his tyranny and breacli of the very reyes rcgnandi in matters civil. 
For which reason we declare that several years since he should have been 
denuded of being king, ruler, or magistrate, or of having any power to act, 
or to be obeyed as such. As also we, being under the standard of the 
Lord Jesus Christ, Captain of Salvation, do declare a war with such a 
tyrant and usurper, and all the men of his practices, as enemies to our 
Lord Jesus Christ, and His cause and covenants, and against all such as 
have strengthened him, sided with, or anywise acknowledged any other in 
like usurpation and tyranny ; far more, against such as would betray or 

116 Histoi'y of Sanquhar. 

deliver up our free, reformed mother Kirk unto the bondage of anti-Christ, 
the Pope of Rome. And by this we homologate that testimony given at 
Rutherglen, the 29th of May, 1679, and all the faithful testimonies of those 
who have gone before, as also of those who have suffered of late ; and we 
do disclaim that Declaration published at Hamilton, June 1679, chiefly 
because it takes in the King's interest, which we are, several years since, 
loosed from, because of the aforesaid reasons, and others which may, after 
this, if the Lord will, be published. As also we disown, and by this 
resent, the reception of the Duke of York, that professed Papist, as re- 
pugnant to our principles and vows to the Most High God, and as that 
which is the great, though not alone, just reproach of our kirk and nation. 
We also by this protest against his succeeding to the crown, and whatever 
has been done, or any are essaying to do, in this land given to the Lord, 
in prejudice to our work of reformation. And, to conclude, we hope, after 
this, none will blame us for, or offend at, our rewarding those that are 
against us as they have done to us, as the Lord gives opportunity. This is 
not to exclude any that have declined, if they be willing to give satisfaction 
according to the degree of their offence." 

On the death of Charles II., and the accession to the 
throne of his brother, the Duke of York, the Covenanters 
knew what they had to expect. James was a person who 
possessed all the vices of the Stuarts in even a worse degree 
than his immediate predecessor ; he was a narrow-minded 
and bigoted papist, and his declared intention was to thrust 
his own religion upon the nation. His is, by no means, the 
only instance recorded in history of a prince who, in his 
public acts, affected a great zeal in the interests of religion, 
whilst paying little regard in his private life to its holy 
precepts. Possessed of the persecuting spirit of his race, and 
exasperated doubtless by the reference to his name and 
character in the Declaration of 1680, he would be goaded 
into fury by the publication of a fresh Declaration by the 
same party on his accession to the throne. This was done 
by Renwick, at the instance of the united societies, who, 
Shiels says, " could not let go this opportunity of witnessing 
against the usurpation by a papist of the government of the 
nation, and his design of overthrowing the covenanted work 
of reformation and introducing popery." 

This second Declaration was published with greater pomp 

History of Sanquhar. 117 

and circumstance than the first. Ren wick, as he marched 
up the street of the old town, was accompanied by about two 
hundred men. Simpson says that " they were armed with 
weapons of defence, and that their sudden appearance with- 
out warning in the heart of the town caused considerable 
alarm in the townsfolk, at the unceremonious intrusion of so 
large an armed force. Their purpose, however, was soon 
apparent. They were not come to pillage the inhabitants, 
nor to spill one drop of blood, but to testify publicly their 
adherence to the covenanted cause of the Reformation. 
Having read their Declaration aloud in the audience of the 
people, and then attached it to the cross as their avowed 
testimony against the evils of which they complained, they, 
in a peaceful and orderly manner, left the place with all 
convenient speed, lest the enemy, to whom information of 
their proceedings would instantly be transmitted, should 
pursue them." This scene occurred on the 28th of May, 
1685. The following is a copy of this Declaration : 

" A few wicked and unprincipled men having proclaimed James, Duke of 
York though a professed Papist and excommunicated person to be King 
of Scotland, etc., we, the contending and suffering remnant of the pure 
Presbyterians of the Church of Scotland, do hereby deliberately, jointly, 
and unanimously protest against the foresaid proclamation, in regard that 
it is choosing a murderer to be a governor, who hath shed the blood of the 
saints ; the height of confederacy with an idolater, which is forbidden in 
the law of God ; contrary to the Declaration of the Assembly of 1649, and 
to the many wholesome and laudable Acts of Parliament; and inconsistent 
with the safety, faith, conscience, and Christian liberty of a Christian 
people to choose a subject of anti-Christ to be their supreme magistrate. 
And further, seeing bloody Papists, the subjects of anti-Christ, are become 
so hopeful, bold, and confident under the perfidy of the said James, Duke 
of York, and hoping itself like to be intruded again upon those- covenanted 
lands, and an open door being made thereto by its accursed and abjured 
harbinger, prelacy, which these three kingdoms are equally sworn against, 
we do in like manner protest against all kind of popery, in general and 
particular heads, etc. 

" Finally, we being misrepresented to many as persons of murdering and 
assassinating principles, and which principles and practices we do hereby 
declare, before God, angels, and men, that we abhor, renounce, and detest ; 
as also all manner of robbing of any, whether open enemies or others, 

118 History of Sanquhar. 

which we are most falsely aspersed with, either in their gold, their silver, 
or their gear, or any household stuff. Their money perish with them- 
selves ; the Lord knows that our eyes are not after these things. 

"And, in like manner, we do hereby disclaim all unwarrantable practices 
committed by any few persons reputed to be of us, whereby the Lord hath 
been offended, His cause wronged, and we all made to endure the scourge 
of tongues, for which things we have desired to make conscience of mourn- 
ing before the Lord both in public and private." 

In addition to these two important declarations four others 
of minor importance were published at Sanquhar after the 
Revolution the first on 10th August, 1692 ; the second on 
November 6, 1695 ; the third on May 21, 1703 ; and the 
fourth in 1707. 

The beautiful and well-known poem, " The Cameronian's 
Dream," which describes the affair of Airsmoss, in which 
Cameron, the Covenanting preacher and leader, fell, was 
written by James Hyslop, whose collected works, together 
with an interesting biographical sketch, were published in 
1887. Hyslop was born at Damhead, near the mouth of the 
romantic Glen Aylmer, on the farm of Kirkland, in the 
neighbouring parish of Kirkconnel, on 23rd July, 1798. 
Young Hyslop, when at school at Kirkconnel, gave proof of 
superior intellectual powers. By and bye he went to reside 
with his paternal grandfather at Wee Carco, on the banks of 
Crawick, by whom he was sent to Sanquhar School during 
the winter season. Hyslop chose the calling of a shepherd, 
and situated as he was in the heart of the Covenanting 
country, and associating every day of his life with the direct 
descendants of some of the more famous families, whose 
members had given an unflinching adherence to the Cove- 
nanting cause, his mind was imbued with a warm sympathy 
for the persecuted remnant, and his poetic imagination was 
fired with the recital of the more stirring incidents of the 
struggle. That at Airsmoss, a situation of wild solitude in 
the not distant neighbourhood, had particularly impressed 
him, and supplied the theme of this poem of exquisite beauty, 
in which the scene is described in language of singular felicity, 

History of Sanquhar. 119 

while the story of the battle is told with dramatic power, the 
whole being invested with a fine touch of imagination, and 
breathing the spirit of reverence with which the Covenanters 
were, and still are, regarded by the peasantry of the district. 
Hyslop was employed as a shepherd in " Wellwood's dark 
valley," and subsequently was engaged as ateacher inGreenock. 
His income from the latter source was very scanty, and his 
anxieties were increased by the enfeebled state of his health. 
His heart yearned for his native Nithsdale, to which he 
returned, and where he found a warm welcome. He after- 
wards sought to mend his fortunes abroad, and sailed for 
South America in July, 1821. He returned to his native 
country three years after, where he frequently resided with 
Dr Cringan at Ryehill. He subsequently obtained the 
appointment of tutor for His Majesty's ship " Tweed," in 
which he sailed for the Cape of Good Hope in 1827. Hyslop 
landed in the company of several of the ship's officers on one 
of the Cape Verd Islands, where, after being drenched in a 
tropical rain, they lay all night in the open air. The result 
in Hyslop's case was that he caught fever, and died on the 
4th of November. His body was committed to the deep 
witli naval honours. His death caused deep regret through- 
out a wide circle of friends. 


Ix a dream of the night I was wafted away 
To the moorlands of mist where the martyrs lay, 
Where Cameron's sword and his bible are seen 
Engraved on the stone where the heather grows green. 

'Twas a dream of those ages of darkness and blood, 
When the minister's home was the mountain ajid wood ; 
When in Wellwood's dark valley the Standard of Zion, 
All bloody and torn, 'mong the heather was lying. 

'Twas morning, and summer's young sun from the east 

Lay in loving repose on the green mountain's breast ; 

On Wardlaw and Cairntable the clear shining dew 

Glistened sheen 'mong the heath-bells and mountain flowers blue. 

And far up in heaven, near the white sunny cloud, 
The song of the lark was melodious and loud, 

1 20 History of Sanquhar. 

And in Glenmuir's wild solitude, lengthened and deep, 
Were the whistling of plovers and bleating of sheep. 

And Wellwood's sweet valley breathed music and gladness, 
The fresh meadow blooms hung in beauty and redness ; 
Its daughters were happy to hail the returning, 
And drink the delights of July's sweet morning. 

But, ah ! there were hearts cherished far other feelings, 

Illumed by the light of prophetic revealings, 

Who drank from the scenery of beauty but sorrow, 

For they knew that their blood would bedew it to-morrow. 

'Twas the few faithful ones, who with Cameron were lying 
Concealed 'mong the mist where the heath-fowl were crying, 
For the horsemen of Earlshall around them were hovering, 
And their bridle-reins rang through the thin misty covering. 

Their faces were pale, and their swords were unsheathed, 
But the vengeance that darkened their brow was unbreathed ; 
With eyes turned to heaven, in calm resignation, 
They sang their last song to the God of salvation. 

The hills, with the deep, mournful music, were ringing, 
The curlew and plover in concert were singing ; 
But the melody died 'mid derision and laughter, 
As the host of ungodly rushed on to the slaughter. 

Tho' in mist, and in darkness, and in fire they were shrouded, 
Yet the souls of the righteous were calm and unclouded ; 
Their dark eyes flashed lightning, as, firm and unbending, 
They stood like the rock that the thunder was rending. 

The muskets were flashing, the blue swords were gleaming, 
The helmets wei-e cleft, and the red blood was streaming, 
The heavens grew black, and the thunder was rolling, 
When in Wellwood'a dark moorlands the mighty were falling. 

When the righteous had fallen, and combat was ended, 
A chariot of fire through the dark cloud descended ; 
Its drivers were angels on horses of whiteness, 
And its burning wheels turned on axles of brightness. 

A seraph unfolded its doors bright and shining, 
All dazzling like gold of the seventh refining, 
And the souls that came forth out of great tribulation, 
Have mounted the chariots and steeds of salvation. 

On the arch of the rainbow the chariot is gliding, 
Through the path of the thunder the horsemen are riding 
Glide swiftly, bright spirits, the prize is before ye, 
A crown never failing, a kingdom of glory. 

History of Sanquhar. 121 

It is not proposed to relate at any length the traditional 
stories of the sufferings and deliverances of the Covenanters, 
a work which has been fully accomplished by Dr Simpson, 
of Sanquhar, whose " Traditions of the Covenanters " is 
regarded as the greatest authority on the subject. At the 
same time, there may be culled from his writings a few of 
the more authentic of those tales, particularly such as refer 
to persons and families identified with the district, and bear 
the greatest air of probability. 

" One of the most prominent of the Covenanters was 
Alexander Williamson, who lived at Cruffell, up the valley 
of the Euchan. On a certain Sabbath, Williamson carried 
his infant over the rugged heights of the Scar, to be baptized 
at a conventicle held on the water of Deuch, in the wilds of 
Carsphairn. During his absence, his wife, Marion Haining, 
who remained at home, observed the troopers wending their 
way slowly along the banks of Euchan, in the direction of 
her dwelling. The cradle was standing empty on the floor, 
in which the infant had been sleeping. It occurred to 
Marion that questions might probably be asked respecting 
the infant's absence, which might lead to a discovery, and 
she made up a bundle of clothes somewhat in the form of a 
baby, and placed it in the cradle. The device was successful, 
for the soldiers when they arrived did not happen to discover 
the circumstance, and hence no ensnaring questions were 
put to her. They remained a while about the house, and 
behaved as it best suited them ; and doubtless, according to 
their custom, regaled themselves with what provisions they 
could find, and left the place at their own convenience ; and 
thus this pious household was on this occasion spared from 
further outrage. 

" On the south of this the eye rests on the moorlands that 
lie beyond the braes of Elliock. In this waste there lived 
in those disastrous days a venerable matron, whose house 
was an occasional resort to the wanderers who traversed the 
desert. A soldier of the company that lay at Elliock, it is 


122 History of Sanquhar. 

said, often visited this lonely hut by stealth, and conveyed 
secret information with regard to the movements of the 
troopers, so that the friends in hiding might look to them- 
selves, and impart cautious notice to their brethren in other 
places. A domestic servant in the house of Elliock, it is 
said, who knew the design of his masters, overhearing in the 
parlour their communications, used to station himself under 
the awning of a wide-spreading tree, beside a mountain 
brook, and tell the tree the secret he wished to convey, 
while in a cavity beneath the fantastic roots lay one who 
listened to his words, and who instantly carried the tidings 
to his suffering brethren. 

" Not far from this, on the farm of South Mains, opposite 
the town of Sanquhar, there wonued a worthy man of the name 
of Hair, who was in the habit of concealing the wanderers 
in his house. On one occasion he had a few of them in his 
barn, and some of the troopers of Elliock having arrived 
before the door, he dreaded that they had come to search 
the premises, and was greatly concerned for the safety of 
those he had in concealment. To his agreeable surprise, 
however, he found that they had come in quest of corn for 
their horses, which they wished to purchase from him. He 
led them into the barn to examine the heaps on the floor, 
and great was the consternation of those who were hidden 
among the straw when they perceived that the enemy was 
so near them, and when the incidental removal of a little of 
the straw or of the sheaves of corn might have revealed their 
retreat ; but they were eased of the burden of their anxiety 
when the party peaceably left the place. This man, Hair, 
belonged to an extensive family of the same name, who were 
all Covenanters. One of them, together with a friend named 
Corson, was discovered in a hollow on the farm of Cairn 
engaged, it is supposed, in devotional exercises. The sound 
of their voices in prayer, or in the singing of psalms, probably 
attracted the notice of the soldiers, and drew them to the 
spot. The circumstances in which they were found were 

History of Sanquhar. 123 

enough to ensure their death, and, therefore, according to 
the custom of the times, and the license of the troopers, they 
were without ceremony shot on the spot. They lie interred 
on the south side of the road leading from Sanquhar to New 
Cumnock, where a rude stone pillar points out their resting- 
place. Hair was one of five brothers who occupied the farm 
of Glenquhary, in the parish of Kirkconnel, of which they 
were the proprietors. They were ejected from their patri- 
mony, however, on account of their nonconformity, and forced 
to wander in the desolate places of the country. One of the 
five brothers was at the battle of Pentland, which would 
doubtless render the whole family more obnoxious to the 
dominant party. It is probable that Hair of Burncrook's, 
elsewhere mentioned, and who effected his escape from the 
dragoons at Glen Aylmer, was one of the same family ; and 
it is equally probable that Hair of Cleuchfoot and William 
Hair of South Mains were, if not of the household of Glen- 
quhary, at least related. In the old churchyard of Kirk- 
connel, which is situated at the base of the mountains, and 
near the mouth of this romantic glen, there are to be seen, 
in its north-west corner, six thrugh-stones belonging to this 
family, indicating the successive generations that have been 
gathered to their fathers. 

" At a distance of three miles from Sanquhar, on the 
east, is the farm of Auchengruith, once the residence of 
Andrew Clark, a man of some celebrity in this locality in 
the times of the Covenant. Andrew, it is said, had nine 
sons, all reared in his own principles, and who were stout 
defenders of the Nonconformist cause. It was on this farm 
that Peden had an occasional hiding place, at the mouth of 
the dark Glendyne ; and it was on the grey hill of Auchen- 
gruith that the seasonable intervention of the snowy mist, 
descending from the height above, saved him from his 

" A scene of a tragic kind was enacted at this house at 
Auchengruith. Some time previously, Adam Clark of 

History of Sanquhar. 

Glenim, on the opposite side of Mennock Glen, engaged 
to guide a party of troopers through the wilds on their way 
to surprise a conventicle. Arrived in the vicinity of the 
Stake Moss, Clark pressed forward, leaping the mossy ditches 
with a nimble bound ; and the horses plunging after, one 
after another stuck fast in the sinking peat ground. Clark 
made his escape over the dark heath, leaving the troopers to 
extricate themselves. It seems that young Andrew Clark 
of Auchengruith bore a striking resemblance to this Adam 
Clark of Glenim. One day the dragoons met Andrew in the 
moors, and believing him to be the person who had led them 
into the moss, apprehended him, and carried him to his 
father's house. He protested that he was not the man who had 
played them this trick, but his protests were unavailing. The 
troopers affirmed that he was the very individual. In those 
days the execution of a man after his impeachment was but 
the work of a moment, and Andrew was immediately brought 
out to the field before the house to be instantly shot. He 
was allowed time to pray a favour which in similar circum- 
stances was not granted to every one. He knelt down on 
the bent in presence of his enemies, and of all his father's 
household. Meanwhile a messenger had been instantly 
despatched to convey the information of what was going on 
at Auchengruith to an aged and worthy woman who lived 
at a place not far off, called Howat's Burnfoot, and who had 
been Andrew's nurse, and for whom she cherished a more 
than ordinary affection. She was a woman of great sagacity, 
magnanimity, and piety ; besides, she had seen much, both 
in her native country and foreign lands, for she had accom- 
panied her husband for sixteen years in the continental wars, 
and had experienced a variety of fortune. The woman lost 
no time in presenting herself before Colonel Douglas and his 
company. When she arrived, Andrew had ended his prayer, 
and his execution was about to take place. "Halt, soldiers!" 
cried the matron ; " halt, and listen to me." She then bore 
testimony that this was not the man who had been concerned 

History of Sanquhar. 1 25 

in the affair of the Stake Moss. " Sir," she exclaimed, turn- 
ing to Colonel Douglas, " if you be a true soldier, hearken to 
the wife of one who warred under the banner of your 
honoured uncle in countries far from this ; and for your 
uncle's sake, by whose side my husband fought and bled, 
and for whose sake he would have sacrificed his life, I beg 
the life of this man, for whom in his infancy I acted the part 
of a mother, and for whom, now in his prime of manhood, I 
cherish all the warmth of a mother's true affection, I beg on 
my knees the life of this innocent man." " My good 
woman," the Colonel replied, "his life you shall have. Your 
appearance is the guarantee for the verity of your statements, 
and you have mentioned a name that has weight with me. 
Soldiers ! let him go." In this way was the tragical scene at 
Auchengruith terminated, and Andrew Clark restored to his 
friends. This same Andrew, it would appear, who became a 
smith at Leadhills, at last suffered in the Grassmarket of 
Edinburgh, along with Thomas Harkness and Samuel 

" Auchentaggart, on the opposite side of the Glendyne burn 
from Auchengruith, was another haunt of the worthies. It 
was wh'ile a party of the wanderers were in this house, par- 
taking of refreshment, that a company of soldiers appeared 
before the door. The poor men saw that there was but 
little likelihood of escape, and, in combination, they rushed 
suddenly at one bolt from the door, scared the horses, 
stupefied the troopers, and fled in the direction of Glendyne, 
whose steep banks prevented a successful pursuit, and in this 
way escaped. 

" It was in this vicinity, too, that it is said Peden, in flight 
before the horsemen, hid himself under a projecting bank, 
close by the side of a streamlet, when the horses came on, 
and passed the rivulet at the very spot where the saintly 
man lay crouching under his mossy coverlet, and the foot of 
one of the animals, crushing through the sod, grazed his 
head, and pressed his bonnet into the soft clay, while he 
escaped unhurt. 

126 History of Sanquhar. 

" To the north of this is the "Martyrs' Knowe," which must 
have received this designation from the killing of some one 
of the worthies on the spot, though tradition has retained 
neither the name of the person nor the circumstances. It 
was here that Urumlanrig, while in pursuit of the wanderers, 
met with a signal defeat by a thunderstorm which broke 
out suddenly, it is said, among the mountains, and terrified 
the troopers so that every man fled for shelter, and let go 
their prisoners in the turmoil, some of whom were, however, 
afterwards caught and shot on the neighbouring heights. 

" An anecdote is told of a pious man named Hair, a member 
of the family above referred to, who lived in a secluded spot 
called Burncrooks, near Kirklaud, in the neighbouring parish 
of Kirkconnel. This inoffensive man was seized by his per- 
secutors, and was doomed to die. The cruel and brutal 
conduct of the dragoons was peculiarly displayed in his 
treatment. They rallied him on the subject of his death, 
and told him that they intended to kill him in a way that 
would afford them some merriment : that, as his name was 
Hair, they wished to enjoy something of the same sport in 
putting an end to his life that they used to enjoy in killing 
the cowering and timid animal that bore a similar name. 
Instead, therefore, of shooting him before his own door, they 
placed him on horseback behind a dragoon, and carried him 
to the top of a neighbouring hill, that in the most conspicuous 
and insulting manner they might deprive him of his life. 
The spot where the cavalcade halted happened to be on the 
very brink of one of the most romantic glens in the west of 
Scotland. . Glen Aylmer forms an immense cleft between two 
high mountains, and opens obliquely towards the meridian 
sun. The descent on either side, for several hundred feet, is 
very steep, and in some places is almost perpendicular. The 
whole valley is clothed with rich verdure, and through its 
centre flows a gentle stream of many crooks and windings, 
which, from the summit of the glen, is seen like a silver 
thread stretching along the deep bottom of the glen. The 

History of Sanquhar. 127 

party of dragoons, having reached the place where they 
intended to shoot their captive, had made a halt for the 
purpose of dismounting, and the soldier behind whom our 
worthy was seated proceeded to unbuckle the belt which, for 
greater security, we may suppose, bound the prisoner to his 
person, when Hair, finding himself disengaged, slid from the 
horse behind, and, alighting on the very edge of the steep 
declivity, glided with great swiftness down the grassy turf, 
and, frequently losing his footing, he rebounded from spot to 
spot, till at last he regained his feet, and ran at his utmost 
speed till he reached the bottom. The soldiers looked with 
amazement, but durst not follow ; they fired rapidly, but 
missed him, and were left to gnaw their tongues in disap- 

" Afamilysomewhat famous in the annals of the Covenanters 
was that of the Laings of Blagannoch, a place situated in a 
solitary spot beside the burn of that name, which, taking its 
rise behind the Bale Hill, is joined at Blagannoch by another 
burn, and the united waters bear the name of Spango, which 
falls into Crawick four miles further down. The Laings 
were resident in Blagannoch for well nigh 400 years, and the 
members sympathised with the covenanting cause. A most 
prominent member of the family was Patrick, born in 1641. 
He enlisted in the Scots Greys in his eighteenth year, and 
proved himself a gallant and intrepid soldier. He was 
dexterous in the use of the sword, and his officers regarded 
him as one of the best and bravest soldiers in their troops. 
Patrick was in the King's service, for he had enlisted in the 
army prior to the Restoration. His was therefore a most 
embarrassing situation, and he feared lest he should be 
called, in the performance of his duty, to take part in any 
measures against that cause which was dear to his heart. 
The day he so much dreaded arrived. A party of the 
Covenanters, to escape the incessant harassing of the 
enemy, had fled over the Border, arid sought refuge in the 
northern parts of England, and Patrick Laing, whose regiment, 

128 History of Sanquhar. 

it appears, happened at the time to be stationed in the 
neighbourhood, was sent with a company to apprehend them. 
To disobey the orders of his superior was as much as his life 
was worth, and to lend himself as an instrument in persecut- 
ing the people of God was what his conscience would not 
permit. Accordingly he marched with his little troop in 
search of the reputed rebels, but contrived so to conduct 
matters as to allow the party apprehended to escape, and the 
soldiers returned without accomplishing their errand. Laing 
was suspected. He was accordingly committed to prison, 
and, being tried, was sentenced to banishment. Through 
the interposition of his friends, the day of his transportation 
was put off from time to time. Through confinement and 
disease he was reduced to a skeleton, and was at last released 
from his prison in an apparently dying condition. He was 
permitted to return to his native country, and moving slowly 
northward, he arrived at last among his native mountains. 
He gradually recovered, and having brought with him a sum 
of about thirty pounds, reckoned in those days a considerable 
fortune, he resolved to settle as the occupant of a little farm 
in some moorland glen. He found a retreat among the wild 
Glenkens of Galloway, but Patrick Laing could not long 
remain in obscurity. The eye of the notorious Griersori of 
Lag was upon him, and it was not long before he began to 
meet with annoyance from the adverse party. In order to 
facilitate his flight from his pursuers, he kept a fleet pony in 
constant readiness, which, being accustomed to scour hills 
and mosses, often carried him with great speed out of the 
way of the heavy troopers. He was on one occasion return- 
ing home, leading the pony, which carried a load of meal 
thrown across its back, when he observed a party of dragoons 
approaching. He tumbled the load on the ground, mounted 
the nimble animal, and sped for safety along the heath. 
Patrick, seeing the horsemen following him, hastened with 
all speed to reach the bottom of a precipice called the Lorg 
Craig. The dragoons, perceiving his intention, divided into 

Histot^y of Sanquhar. 129 

different parties, pursuing separate routes, with a view, if 
possible, to circumvent him, and intercept his progress to the 
Craig. He reached the rock, however, before the soldiers 
came up, and having scrambled to the middle of the precipice, 
he was standing still for a moment to take breath when the 
troopers approached the base. He was aware that they 
would leave their horses and climb after him. There was 
now no way of escape left for him but to mount, if possible, 
to the top of the rock ; and the danger with which this was 
attended was to be preferred to the danger of being exposed 
to the fire of the musketry. He made the attempt, and 
succeeded ; and when he reached the highest point, where 
he stood in security, he gave three loud cheers in mockery of 
his pursuers, who, he knew, durst not follow in his track. 
Forced to flee from his home, he took refuge in the darkly- 
wooded retreats of the Euchan,and found hospitable entertain- 
ment among the pious people who inhabited its banks. The 
farm-house of Barr is particularly mentioned as receiving him 
kindly ; in Cleuchfoot, a mile to the west of Sanquhar, he 
also found a resting-place. This latter place was situated 
near to the highway between Ayrshire and Nithsdale, along 
which troops of soldiers frequently passed, but near the house 
was a dense thicket, into the heart of which he could plunge 
at any time, and two ravines where he could secrete himself 
in perfect safety. In this way, he wandered about secretly 
from place to place till the Revolution, which, though it 
brought a welcome relief to others, made but little alteration 
in his circumstances, at least for a while. Grierson of Lag, 
who bore him no good-will, well knowing that he belonged 
to the despised sect, had received a commission to enlist, or 
otherwise impress into the service, what men he could find 
in Galloway and Nithsdale. He reported Laing as a deserter, 
and received authority to apprehend him. One of the last 
attempts made by Lag to get hold of him was one day when 
he was quietly angling in the Euchan. He saw three men 
slowly advancing up the stream. To test their designs he 


130 History of Sanquhar. 

left the stream, and ascended the brow of the hill. They 
immediately followed, separating themselves in order to cut 
oft his retreat. His strength was fast failing when he reached 
a hollow space of spretty ground, in which he resolved to hide 
himself, and abide the will of Providence. When he reached 
the place he sank to the waist. As he was struggling to 
extricate himself, he observed a place scooped out by the 
little brook beneath the bank, into which he crept, and 
his pursuers, though they passed near to the spot, failed to 
discover his hiding place. He then moved to the north of 
Scotland, where lived one of his old officers, a pious man. 
Shortly after his return he was present at a meeting of the 
Society people at Cairntable. The procedure of that con- 
vention did not please him, and he withdrew from their 
connection. He died at the house of Cleuchfoot, at the age 
of 85 years. His dust lies in the Churchyard of Kirkconnel, 
without a stone to mark his resting-place. 

" In the summer of 1685, six men fled from their persecutors 
in Douglasdale namely, David Dun, Simon Patersori, John 
Richard, William Brown, Robert Morris, and James Welsh. 
They took refuge among the more inaccessible heights of 
Upper Nithsdale, at a place called Glenshilloch, a little to 
the west of Wanlockhead, and not far from the old house of 
Cogshead. They were probably drawn to this particular 
locality by the fact that Brown was related to the family at 
Cogshead, by whom they were amply supplied with provisions. 
A strict search was made for the refugees, and at length it 
was reported to Drumlanrig that they were believed to be in 
hiding somewhere in the wilds between the Mennock and 
the Crawick. On this information, Drumlanrig collected his 
troops, whom he divided into three divisions, one of which 
traversed the glen of Mennock, another that of Crawick, 
while the third pursued the middle route by way of Glendyne. 
This last division was commanded by Drumlanrig himself, 
who, having led them over the height on the north side of 
Glendyne, descended on the water of Cog, and stationed 

History of Sanquhar. 131 

himself on the " Martyrs' Knowe." Meanwhile some of the 
dragoons, who had been scouring the neighbouring hills, 
seized a boy who was returning from Glenshilloch to Cogs- 
head carrying an empty wooden vessel, called by the 
peasantry a kit, in which were several horn- spoons a proof 
that he had been conveying provisions to some individuals 
among the hills, whom they naturally suspected to be the 
men of whom they were in quest. They carried the boy to 
their commander, who strictly interrogated him, but without 
eliciting anything from him. The boy's firmness so enraged 
Drumlanrig that he threatened to run him through the body 
with his sword, but on second thoughts it occurred to him 
that, by using other means, he might succeed in obtaining 
all the information he desired. He sent the troopers out in 
the direction from which the boy had been seen returning 
over the hills. It was not long before they, in descending 
the north side of the mountain, found the men in their 
hiding-place. They pounced on them as a falcon on his 
quarry. Dun, Paterson, and Richard were captured, while 
Brown, Morris, and Welsh made their escape. A sudden 
and terrific thunderstorm, no uncommon occurrence in this 
region, overtook the whole party, from which Drumlanrig 
fled, regardless of his men or his prisoners. In the darkness 
and panic that ensued, the prisoners slipped out of the hands 
of their captors and fled. As they passed the " Martyrs' 
Knowe," they found the boy lying bound on the ground, not 
dead, but stunned with terror. Having liberated him, they 
informed him of what had occurred, and directed him to 
keep in concealment till the troopers had cleared out of the 
district. They themselves made their way to the wilds in 
the upper parts of Galloway. The three men who escaped 
at Glenshilloch namely, Brown, Morris, and Welsh fled 
northward, but were intercepted by the party who had gone 
up the vale of the Crawick. Brown and Morris were shot at 
the back of Craignorth, where they lie interred in the places 
respectively where they fell, at Brown Cleuch and Morris 
Cleuch, while Welsh managed to effect his escape. 

132 History of Sanquhar. 

"The dwelling-house at Glenglass, near the source of the 
Euchan, is said to have been partly constructed with the 
view to affording a hiding-place to the destitute Covenanters. 
At the one end it had a double gable, the one wall at a 
distance of a few feet from the other, leaving a considerable 
space between, extending the whole breadth of the building. 
This narrow apartment was without windows, unless it may 
have been a small sky-light on the roof. The entrance to 
this asylum was not by a door, but by a small square aperture 
in the inner wall, called by the country people a bole. This 
opening was generally filled with the " big Ha' Bible," and 
other books commonly perused by the household. When 
instant danger was dreaded, or when it was known that the 
dragoons were out, this chamber was immediately resorted 
to by those who had reason to be apprehensive of their 
safety. The books in the bole were removed till the indi- 
vidual crept into the interior, and then they were carefully 
replaced, in such a way as to lead to no suspicion. Like the 
prophet's chamber in the wall, this place could admit " a 
bed, a table, a stool, and a candlestick," and in the cold of 
winter it had a sufficiency of heat imparted to it by means 
of the fire that blazed continually close by the inner wall. 

These reminiscences may be brought to a fitting close with 
the story of 


This glen is peculiar in being closed in, to all appearance, 
as much at the lower as the upper end you feel utterly 
shut in and shut out. Half way down is a wild cascade, 
called Kelte's Linn from Captain Kelte, one of Claver- 
house's dragoons, who was killed there. 

Defoe's account of the affair and of its Avild scene, in his 
Memoirs of the Church of Scotland, is so homely and to the 
quick that we give it in full. It is not unworthy of Robinson 
Crusoe, and is unexaggerated in local description : 

" This Entrekein is a very steep and dangerous mountain ; 

History of Sanquhar. 133 

nor could such another place have been easily found in the 
whole country for their purpose ; and, had not the dragoons 
been infatuated from Heaven, they would never have entered 
such a Pass without well discovering the hill above them. 
The road for above a mile goes winding, with a moderate 
ascent on the side of a very high and very steep hill, till on 
the latter part, still ascending, and the height on the left 
above them being still vastly great, the depth on their right 
below them makes a prodigious precipice, descending steep 
and ghastly into a narrow deep bottom, only broad enough 
for the current of water to run that descends upon hasty 
rain ; from this bottom the mountain rises instantly again 
steep as a precipice on the other side of a stupendous height. 
The passage on the side of the first hill, by which, as I said, 
the way creeps gradually up is narrow, so that two horsemen 
can but ill pass in front ; and if any disorder should happen 
to tjiem, so as that they step but a little awry, they are in 
danger in falling down the said precipice on their right, 
where there would be no stopping till they came to the 
bottom. And the writer of this has seen, by the accident 
only of a sudden frost, which had made the way slippery, 
three or four horses at a time of travellers or carriers lying 
in that dismal bottom, which slipping in their way, have not 
been able to recover themselves, but have fallen down the 
precipice, and rolled to the bottom, perhaps tumbling twenty 
times over, by which it is impossible but they must be 
broken to pieces ere they come to stop. In this way the 
dragoons were blindly marching two and two with the minister 
and five countrymen, whom they had taken prisoners, and 
were hauling them along to Edinburgh, the front of them 
being near the top of the hill, and the rest reaching all along 
the steep part, when on a sudden they heard a man's voice 
calling to them from the side of the hill on their left a great 
height above them. 

" It was misty, as indeed it is seldom otherwise on the 
height of that mountain, so that no body was seen at first ; 

131 History of Sanquhar. 

but the Commanding Officer, hearing somebody call, halted, 
and called aloud ' What d'ye want, and who are ye ?' He 
had no sooner spoke, but twelve men came in sight upon the 
side of the hill above them, and the officer called again 
' What are ye ?' and bad stand. One of the twelve answer'd 
by giving the word of command to his men ' Make ready' 
and then calling to the officer, said ' Sir, will ye deliver 
our Minister?' The officer answer'd with an oath 'No, sir, 
an ye were to be damn'd.' At which the leader of the 
countrymen fir'd immediately, and airn'd so true at him, tho 
the distance was pretty great, that he shot him thro' the 
head, and immediately he fell from his horse ; his horse, 
flattering a little with the fall of his rider, fell over the 
precipice, rolling to the bottom, and was dash'd to pieces. 

" The rest of the twelve men were stooping to give fire 
upon the body, when the next commanding officer call'd to 
them to hold their hands, and desir'd a Truce. It was 
apparent that the whole body was in a dreadful consterna- 
tion ; not a man of them durst stir a foot, or offer to fire a 
shot. And had the twelve men given fire upon them, the 
first volley, in all probability, would have driven twenty of 
them down the side of the mountain into that dredd gulph 
at the bottom. 

" To add to their consternation, their two scouts who rode 
before gave them notice that there appeared another body o/ 
arm'd countrymen at the top of the hill in their front ; 
which, however, was nothing but some travellers who, seeing 
troops of horse coming up, stood there to let them pass, the 
way being too narrow to go by them. It's true, there were 
about twenty-five more of the countrymen in arms, tho' they 
had not appeared, and they had been sufficient, if they had 
thought fit, to have cut this whole body of horse into pieces. 

" But the officer having asked a parley, and demanded 
' What it was they would have?' they again replied, 'Deliver 
our minister.' ' Well, sir,' says the officer, ' ye's get your 
minister an ye will promise to forbear firiny' ' Indeed 

History of Sanquhar. 135 

we'll forbear,' says the good man. ' We desire to hurt none 
of ye. But, sir,' says he, ' belike ye have more prisoners.' 
'Indeed have ive,' says the officer. ' And ye mon deliver 
them all,' says the honest man. ' Well,' says the officer ' ye 
shall have them then.' Immediately the officer calls to 
' Bring forward the minister.' But the way was so narrow 
and crooked he could not be brought up by a horseman 
without danger of putting them into disorder, so that the 
officer bad them 'Loose him, and let him go,' which was 
done. So the minister stept up the hill a step or two, and 
stood still. Then the officer said to him 'Sir, an I let you 
go, I expect you promise to oblige your people to offer no 
hindrance to our march.' The minister promised them *Hi 
would do so.' ' Then go, sir,' said he. ' You owe your life 
to this damn'd mountain.' ' Rather, sir,' said the minister, 
' to that God that made this mountain.' When their 
minister was come to them, their leader call'd again to the 
officer. ' Sir, we want yet the other prisoners.' The officer 
gave orders to the rear, where they were, and they were also 
deliver'd. Upon which the leader began to march away, 
when the officer call'd again ' But hold, sir,' says he. ' Ye 
promised to be satisfied if ye had your prisoners. I expect 
you'll be as good as your word.' ' Indeed shall I,' says the 
leader. ' I am just marching away.' It seems he did not 
rightly understand the officer. ' Well, sir, but,' says the 
officer, ' / expect you will call off those fellows you have 
posted at the head of the way.' ' They belong not to us,' says 
the honest man. ' They are unarmed people, waiting till 
you pass by.' 'Say you so,' said the officer. 'Had I known 
that, you had not gotten your men so cheap, or have come 
off so free.' Says the countryman ' A n ye are for battle, 
sir, we are ready for you still ; if you think you are able 
for us, ye may try your hand. We'll quit the truce if you 
like.' ' No' says the officer ; / think ye be brave fellows ; 
e'en gang your gate' This was in the year 1686." 

Besides these recorded instances of the persecution to 

136 History of Sanquhar. 

which the nonconforming party were subjected, there are 
doubtless many others connected with this district that have 
dropped into oblivion. We find graves in the moors, or what 
at all events look very like graves, and are supposed to be 
the resting-place of Covenanters, who had either suffered 
death at the hands of a brutal soldiery who were continually 
scouring the country, or who had died of diseases caused by 
exposure to cold, hunger, and fatigue. The two little 
mounds on Coniick Meadow have always been regarded as 
the graves of two such sufferers. At the same time it is 
noticeable that the number who were victims during the 
" killing time " in the parish of Sanquhar was in comparison 
few, considering that it was in the very centre of the district 
where the fire of persecution burned most fiercely, and the 
pursuit of suspected persons was carried on with the greatest 
activity. We do not believe that this was due to the number 
of the nonconformists being few, for the parish, being largely 
pastoral, contained many of that very class by whom the 
principles of the Covenants were most widely embraced. It 
is known to all who have studied this chapter of history, that 
the degree of annoyance and persecution to which the people 
in any district were subjected, depended on the character and 
temper of the resident curate. Some of these curates kept 
a close eye on all those who absented themselves from their 
ministrations, and, being of a vindictive disposition, gave 
information to the authorities, thus making themselves the 
willing tools of an intolerant party. Others of a different 
stamp had none of this intolerance, respected the conscientious 
scruples of those who differed from them, and, in their hearts, 
sympathised with them in the sufferings and trials they had 
to endure. Of this latter class was the curate of Sanquhar, 
James Kirkwood by name, a good-natured, e.asy-going 
sort of man, who contrived to give his parishioners 
little trouble, and at the same time to keep on good terms 
with the governing party. Tradition says that, instead of 
seeking occasion against those who refused to attend his 

History of Sanquhar. 137 

ministry, he publicly announced that, if on a given day they 
would assemble within the churchyard, though they did not 
enter the church, he would give a favourable report of the 
whole parish, and screen the nonconformists from the ven- 
geance of their persecutors. The generosity of this good- 
hearted curate is further illustrated by an incident related 
by Simpson. "It was current among the people of the neigh- 
bourhood," he says, " that two of the Covenanting brethren 
from the wilds of Carsphairn, in full flight before the 
dragoons, dashed into the river Nith, and reached the oppo- 
site bank a few yards below the manse. It happened that a 
number of individuals, among whom was the curate, were 
playing at quoits on the green. ' Where shall we run," 
cried the men. ' Doff your coats/ said the curate, ' and 
play a game with me.' They did so. The dragoons imme- 
diately followed ; they passed the curate and rode on in 
pursuit, and the men, through his generous interference, 
escaped." Another good story is told by the same author of 
Kirkwood, which shows that he was not only on good terms 
with the powers, but that, though tainted with one of the 
vices of the age. he was also a man of independence and 

"During Lord Airlie's stay at the Castle of Sanquhar 
sumptuojus entertainments were given, and it happened that 
on a Saturday afternoon the curate, whose humorous and 
quaint manners had often amused the circle in the ancient 
peel, was sent for to entertain Airlie in the midst of their 
festivities. He was introduced in his appropriate character 
to Airlie, who found him in every respect to his liking. 
Having dined, the company continued at wine and wassail 
till supper, at which late hour Kirkwood probably found that 
it would have been more to his purpose had he been at 
home and in his study, but he was induced to remain, the 
party finding that he was indispensable to their entertain- 
ment. Airlie, it seems, used a great many freedoms with 
Kirkwood, who was in all his glory in the midst of the 


138 History of Sanquhar. 

merriment and carousals, and forgot that the Sabbath was 
stealing on apace, and that he had to officiate on the hallowed 
day. When he found that it was past midnight, he made 
sundry efforts to withdraw ; but Airlie as uniformly prevented 
him, by exclaiming, 'Come, Mr Kirkwood, another glass, and 
then,' till daylight began to dawn, when he succeeded in 
releasing himself from the besotted party, and retreated 
homeward by the south side of the town, through the fields 
next the river, and reached his house undiscovered. Being 
now safely lodged in his own domicile, he began to bethink 
himself what was to be done against the approaching hour 
of Divine worship ; not that he, perhaps, cared much for 
public opinion, but he felt himself unfitted for everything but 
sleep. Kirkwood, it would appear, was a man of ability, and 
a ready speaker, who found no difficulty in addressing his 
congregation at any time. It was probably because he was 
a man of this cast that Queensberry had located him in his 
present situation. On this occasion the curate thought it 
probable that the party from the Castle might attend the 
church that day, the more especially as there might exist 
among them a certain curiosity on their part to see how he 
would acquit himself after the night's debauch; and so after 
a brief repose, he addressed himself to his studies, if so be he 
might be able to command something appropriate to the 
occasion. It fell out exactly as he opined, for Airlie mani- 
fested an unwonted curiosity to see how his facetious friend 
would acquit himself as a preacher, and, accordingly, he 
repaired to the church to witness the exhibition. When the 
hour arrived, the curate, being now refreshed, and having 
fixed on what he deemed a suitable subject, proceeded to the 
church with as much coolness as if nothing had happened. 
He had no sooner entered the pulpit than, according to his 
anticipations, the company from the castle took their seats 
in what was called the loft, straight before the preacher, and 
Airlie, with some of his troopers behind him, placed himself 
conspicuously in the front. All this might have daunted 

History of Sanquhar. 139 

another man, but on Kirkwood it made no impression, other 
than to rouse him to greater effort, and to nerve him with 
greater firmness. 

" In those days the kirks were each furnished with a sand- 
glass, instead of a clock, to measure the time, that the 
minister might know how to calculate the length of his 
discourse, and this instrument was placed near the precentor's 
hand, whose duty it was to turn it when the sand had run 
down. These glasses were of various sizes, from an hour to 
half-an-hour. The curate had chosen for his text ' The 
Lord shall destroy the wicked, and that right early.' This, 
it seems, he did for the purpose of accommodating the word 
early, in its sound at least, to one of his principal auditors, 
who on the previous night had teased him most, and 
entangled him in its bewitching festivities. As he proceeded 
with his discourse, and waxed warm on the subject, he made 
frequent use of the words ' The Lord shall destroy the 
wicked, and that right early,' laying emphasis on the word 
early, and pointing with his ringer to the Earl, as if the 
subject had its whole bearing on him personally. ' The 
Lord will destroy the wicked, and that early, too," again he 
vociferated, 'and that early,' till he drew the entire attention 
of the audience to Airlie, who sat boldly confronting him, a 
few yards from the pulpit. The people were both astonished 
and amused at the freedom which their preacher dared to 
use in the presence of his superiors and these redoubted men, 
who were a terror to the country. If the people were 
astonished, Airlie was no less so, when the curate, borrowing 
his lordship's expression which he had used at the board of 
revelry ' One glass more, and then, Mr Kirkwood,' when he 
wished to detain him a little longer. ' Jasper,' said he to the 
precentor, ' the sand has run down ; turn it, for we want one 
glass more, and then.' This done, he proceeded, in his dash- 
ing and impetuous way, and with great vehemence of action, 
to declaim against the wickedness of the world, and to 
denounce the Divine judgments on those who persisted in 

140 History of Sanquhar. 

their sins ; and, casting a glance over the congregation, he 
cried out ' The Lord shall destroy the wicked,' and then, 
directing his eyes to where Airlie sat, he added, ' and that 
early, and that right early.' In this fashion he continued 
till the upper storey of the sand-glass was again emptied, 
when he called on the precentor, ' another glass, and then/ 
and on he went as before, pouring forth a torrent of declama- 
tion as continuous as the sand poured its stream through the 
smooth throat of the glass, with this difference that, while 
the sand ceased to flow when it had exhausted itself, he 
never seemed to fail, nor to empty himself of his subject. 
How long he proceeded is not said, but certes, the party from 
the castle had their patience taxed quite as much as their 
detention of the preacher on the preceding night had taxed 
his ; and they were taught that he could ply his glass as 
freely as they could ply theirs." 

There was a proverb long current in this district which 
took its rise from the following occurrence : The worthy 
curate had occasion to traverse a rugged moor in the depth 
of winter. It was an intense frost, and the face of the moor- 
land was as hard as a board. He directed his mare into a 
track in which she had on a former occasion sunk, but all his 
efforts could not induce her to advance. On finding that his 
endeavours were fruitless, he turned her head away, with 
the remark, " You brute, you have a better memory than a 
judgment," which passed into the proverb, "You have a 
better memory than a judgment, like Kirk wood's mare." 

We cannot but cherish a reverential regard for the memory 
of this worthy curate. It is but little that we have recorded 
of him, but that little is highly suggestive. He stands boldly 
out in the history of the time, a figure notable in more 
respects than one. Evidently a man of high intellectual 
endowments, he was likewise possessed of those qualities of 
wit and humour which made his society much prized and 
sought after, and led him into situations similar to those 
which have proved the undoing of many a one, and which 

History of Sanquhar. 141 

in his own case did not conduce to that decent sobriety of 
demeanour which so well becomes those who hold his sacred 
office. On this side lay the principal danger to his character 
and usefulness, and he may not have been sufficiently on his 
guard against the temptations of social intercourse and 
friendly hospitality ; but, though he may have occasionally 
stepped aside from the path of dignified self-respect, those 
occasional errors could not corrupt the true greatness of the 
man. His repentance, we doubt not, was deep and sincere. 
We do not regard the famous scene in the church as a piece 
of bravado the taking of his revenge upon those who had 
lowered him in his own eyes but as the outpouring of his 
righteous indignation at the thought how he had been 
entrapped into degrading both himself and his holy calling ; 
and that, whilst he hurled his denunciations and warnings at 
the head of the wicked and licentious noble, the thunder of 
his rebuke shook his own soul. His was a Knox-like spirit 
free, courageous, and bold and we can well conceive how 
such a man in a different age, and in other surroundings, 
would have proved a very tower of strength to the cause of 
righteousness and truth. He was no miserable time-server 
or crawling sycophant, who would condone or excuse the 
prevailing wickedness of his time, or speak with bated breath 
of the private vices of his patrons, or of those with whom it was 
his interest, in a worldly sense, to stand well. Lord Airlie, 
judging by his first and only experience of him, had in all 
probability formed a false conception of his character, but he 
was not allowed to remain long deceived. He left the church 
with a very different opinion of the curate from that with 
which he entered it. Such words had probably never before 
been addressed to him, but to-day he was in the presence of a 
man. This worthy curate likewise possessed that combination 
of strength and gentleness of force of conviction and toler- 
ance of spirit, which is so rarely found in the same person. 
In spite of the bitterness which the nonconforming party felt 
and expressed towards all of his class, he yet, with singular 

142 History of Sanqukar. 

large-heartedness, returned them only good for evil. With a 
garrison at his very door, eager and ready for the work, he 
had but to raise his little ringer, and the lives and liberties of 
his nonconforming parishioners would have been in instant 
jeopardy ; but, no ! the generosity of his soul would not 
permit him to touch a hair of their heads. In the hour of 
danger he threw the mantle of protection over a harassed 
and persecuted people. Foolish they must have appeared 
in his eyes, but the charity which covereth a multitude of 
sins gently swayed his heart. We may conclude that, though 
from their point of view the Covenanters regarded him as an 
intruder into God's heritage, and in league with wicked and 
sinful men, they could not fail to be impressed with his true 
goodness as a man, and the practical exhibition of Christian 
virtue which he daily set before them. Verily he shall not 
lose his reward. " Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of the 
least of these my brethren, ye did it unto me." 

Though the memory of the Covenanters was warmly 
cherished, as has been said, by their descendants and succes- 
sors in Upper Nithsdale, no public demonstration had ever 
been made, nor any memorial raised, prior to the year 1859, 
in commemoration of this eventful period of our history. 
Then, however, a proposal in this direction was made, and 
was taken up with enthusiasm by the inhabitants. Dr 
Simpson, the historian of the Covenanters, was of course the 
leading spirit of the movement. The Demonstration took 
place at Sanquhar on the 22nd July, I860, one hundred and 
eighty years from the time when Cameron made his famous 
Declaration. We take the following from an account of the 
proceedings published at the time : 

" A great concourse of people from all quarters convened 
in the ancient burgh to carry out the demonstration deter- 
mined on. The day fortunately was favourable, being warm 
and bright, though latterly the sky became overcast with 
clouds, which, later in the evening, fell in heavy rain. A 
large number of strangers had arrived by early trains from 

History of Sanquhar. 143 

considerable distances ; and, as the hour of noon approached, 
all sorts of conveyances brought in a multitude of people 
from the surrounding districts, attired in holiday garb, and 
lending to the usually quiet main street of the burgh an 
appearance of great bustle and pleasing excitement. From 
the Town Hall an ancient banner waved, and at the site of 
the Old Cross in the centre of the town was to be seen a flag, 
tattered and stained, yet still in good repair, which had been 
at Drumclog and Bothwell Bridge, and bearing the white 
cross of St. Andrew, on a blue ground, in one part, with the 
motto in another of ' Pro Religio et Liberatio ' (sic.) This flag 
is now in the possession of Mr M'Geachan, of Cumnock, a lineal 
descendant of one of the martyrs. At the Old Cross had 
been erected a triple triumphal arch, composed of evergreens 
and the beautiful wild flowers of Scotland, and a printed 
notice indicated that that was the identical spot where 
Cameron had made his famous Declaration on the 22nd 
June, 1680. The provost, magistrates, and town council, 
the clergy of various denominations, and the local corps of 
volunteers, mustering to the number of between fifty and 
sixty, all efficiently and cordially assisted in the demonstra- 
tion ; and three brass bands, two belonging to Sanquhar and 
one to Wanlockhead, supplied appropriate music for the 
procession. At twelve o'clock a concourse of people, num- 
bering probably between two and three thousand, assembled 
in Queensberry Square. Provost Whigham ascended a plat- 
form and took the chair. He was accompanied by Professor 
Blackie, Edinburgh ; Rev. Dr Simpson, Sanquhar ; Rev. 
Robert Noble, Muirkirk ; Rev. Thomas Easton, Stranraer ; 
Lieut.-Col. Shaw, of Ayr ; Rev. Messrs Logan and Crawford, 
Sanquhar, &c., &c. The Provost narrated the proceedings 
that had led up to the demonstration of that day, and called 
upon Dr Simpson, who delivered a characteristic and telling 
speech, in which he recounted briefly the struggle between 
the government of Charles II. and James VII. and the 
Scottish people in regard to their religious rights, the devo- 

1 44 History of Sanquhar. 

tion of the peasantry of the south-west to the cause of the 
Covenant, and the brutal persecution to which they were 
subjected. He vindicated the attitude of the Covenanters, 
both in the resistance they offered to the attempts to thrust 
episcopacy upon them and the renunciation of their civil 
allegiance to the Crown. He said the commemoration was 
intended to keep alive the spirit of their ancestry in opposi- 
tion to oppression and popery, and enjoined upon the young 
people to imbibe their Christian and heroic spirit. 

"The people then formed in order of procession, five or six 
deep, and moved off. Arrived at the first arch, a copy of 
Cameron's Declaration was read by Rev. Mr Crawford near 
the spot where it was first given to the world. The cross 
stood opposite where he then was ; there was no dwelling- 
house near, but a green slope came down towards the street, 
and there it was that Richard Cameron, having read his 
Declaration, affixed it to the cross. He ended by proposing 
three cheers to the memory of the Covenanters, which were 
cordially given. 

"The march was resumed till the ruins of Sanquhar Castle 
were reached, where the assemblage was addressed by 
Professor Blackie. The learned Professor had a congenial 
theme, and having referred to the beauties of Scottish 
scenery, and in particular of the district in which they were 
assembled, he proceeded to an eloquent eulogy of the courage 
and independence of the Covenanters, pointing out the bear- 
ing which the stand they made had in helping on the greater 
struggle which was then being waged in both England and 
Scotland against the tyranny of the later Stuarts. He 
sharply criticised the manner in which Sir Walter Scott had 
caricatured the Covenanters a proceeding unworthy of his 
great genius. Unfortunately this had been accepted in many 
quarters as a just representation of these worthy men. As 
a set off he quoted the testimony borne to their personal 
worth and the value of their self-denying sufferings by 
Burns, Carlyle, and Froude, and others well competent to 

History of Saiiquhar. 145 

form a correct estimate of the men and their work. He 
concluded with a vigorous denunciation of the character and 
government of Charles II. and James II., and held that the 
Covenanters were amply justified in the attitude they took 
up, though he doubted the expediency in the Declaration of 
declaring the King a traitor ; but the best of men were 
imprudent, and to be imprudent on a great occasion is to 
be capable of great and sublime virtue. The Covenanters 
were the prophets of all that we now enjoy ; the pioneers of 
constitutional government, the men who were the first to 
move in planting that tree of liberty of which we now possess 
the fruits ; they laid down their lives in that struggle, while 
we have little else to do than make speeches about them, 
cry ' God save the Queen,' and pay our taxes now and then. 

" The assemblage then moved in procession back to the 
square, where they were again addressed in a similar strain 
by Colonel Shaw, of Ayr ; the Rev. Mr Easton, Stranraer ; 
and the Rev. Mr Anderson, Loanhead. 

" A soiree was held in the evening in the Crichton School 
grounds, at which the Rev. Dr Simpson presided. The 
Chairman recited the ' Cameronian's Dream,' and addresses 
followed. A demand was then made by the audience for 
Professor Blackie, who said he had got all kinds of usage in 
his day, but he had never till then been asked to do anything 
so unreasonable as to make two speeches on the same subject 
on the same day to the same audience. He was prepared to 
meet this dodge of the Sanquharians by another dodge. 
Instead of addressing them, he would read two pieces from 
a book of his, which had been greatly cut up by some London 
snobs, but which nevertheless he considered contained very 
good poetry. The Professor then read a poem on the martyr- 
dom of the two Wigtown maidens, and, in dramatic style, a 
song entitled ' Jenny Geddes and the three-legged stool.' 
Both pieces were received with rapturous applause. 

" The Chairman here read the following beautiful sonnet, 
composed by the Professor about two years before in the inn 


146 History of Sanquhar. 

at Sanquhar, after a journey of about twenty miles over the 
hill from Carsphairn : 

' Scotland, thou art full of holy ground ! 
From every glen, I hear a prophet preacli ; 
Thy sods are voiceful. No grey book can teach 
Like the green grass that swathes a martyr's mound. 
And here, where Nith's clear mountain waters flow, 
With murmurous sweep round Sanquhar's hoary tower, 
The place constrains me, and with sacred power, 
What Scotland is to Scottish men I know. 
Here first the youthful hero-preacher raised 
The public banner of a nation's creed : 
Far o'er the land the spoken virtue blazed, 
But he who dared to voice the truth must bleed. 
Men called it rash perhaps it was a crime 
His deed flashed out God's will an hour before the time.' 

" The Chairman, at a later stage, gave the following 
particulars regarding the conflict at Airsmoss. It took place 
on a Thursday, at four o'clock in the afternoon, and that at 
the time the moorlands, it is said, were visited with a 
thunderstorm, which circumstance is alluded to in ' The 
Cameronian's Dream '- 

' The heavens grew black, and the thunder was rolling, 
When in Well wood's dark valley the mighty were falling.' 

With Cameron there were in all sixty-three, of whom twenty- 
three were horsemen, and the remainder on foot. With 
Earlshall the number was more than double. The contest 
was severe ; the Covenanters fought most valiantly, and 
while only nine of their number were killed, more than three 
times that number of the enemy fell. Sir John Cochrane of 
Ochiltree was the person who revealed the hiding-place of 
the worthies in the rnoss to Earlshall, who came upon them 
in the afternoon, as the sky was lowering into a storm. It 
is said that Earlshall got 500, and Ochiltree 10,000 merks 
for their conduct in this affair. A short time after this the 
house of Ochiltree was burned to the ground, and while the 
fierce flames were consuming the edifice, Ochiltree's son 
exclaimed ' This is the vengeance of Cameron's blood.' 

History of Sanquhar. 147 

That house was never rebuilt. A throughstone was placed 
over the nine martyrs, who were laid together in one grave 
in the moor, with the following inscription : 

' Hair, curious passenger : come here and read. 
Our souls triumph with Christ, our glorious head. 
In self-defence we murdered here do lie, 
To witness 'gainst the nation's perjury.' 

" Professor Blackie, at this stage of the proceedings, pro- 
posed that steps should forthwith be taken to secure the 
erection of a monument, or other suitable memorial, at 
Sanquhar, for the commemoration of the Sanquhar Declara- 

" The proposal of Professor Blackie was not lost sight of, 
and on the llth May, 1864, the monument was erected. At 
the site of the ancient cross, where it was put up, the road- 
way has been cut through a knoll of ground five feet high 
on the north side of the street. The foundation of the 
monument consists of square blocks of granite to the level of 
the brae-face, and on that rises the monument itself, consist- 
ing of a square pannelled pedestal, ornamented with mould- 
ings, and polished on the four sides, above which a tapering 
column rises to the height of 22 feet. On the side facing 
the street it bears the following inscription : - 







ON THE 22o JUNE, 1680 ; 


THE REV. JAMES R E N w i c K, 

ON THE 29TH MAY, 1685. 


' If you would know the nature of their crime, 
Then read the story of that killing time.' 

148 History of Sanqu h ar. 

" In a cavity near the base of the column was deposited a 
bottle containing : A copy of the Dumfries Courier ; 
another of the Glasgow Morning Journal ; pamphlet con- 
taining an account of the Demonstration of 22nd June, 1860 ; 
a handbill of the same ; a copy of Simpson's History of 
Sanquhar ; the Register of the Scottish Temperance League 
of 1863 ; a list of the paupers of the parish of Sanquhar ; a 
list of the voters in the burgh ; and an abstract of the burgh 
accounts for 1863 ; a copy of the Illustrated Sanquhar 
Magazine of 1857 ; together with a collection of coins." 



jROM early times there existed in Scotland burghs of 
four different kinds burghs of regality, burghs 
free, burghs of barony, and royal burghs. In the 
year 1484, Sanquhar was created a burgh of barony, 
a corporation, that is, embracing the inhabitants thereof, 
and governed by magistrates. These magistrates were, 
however, in many cases, under the control of the lord of the 
barony. The dignity and privileges of royal burghs were 
superior to those of any other order of burgh ; it was, there- 
fore, a matter of pride and ambition on the part of other 
burghs to attain the rank of a burgh royal. That could 
only be accomplished by a royal charter, granted on applica- 
tion by the inhabitants. 

One essential condition of the erection of a free royal 
burgh is set forth in the Stornoway case in 1628. The 
attention of the Convention of Royal Burghs of that year was 
directed to the fact that the King, at the instigation of the 
Earl of Seyfort, had granted his sign manual to the erection 
of Stornoway as " ane frie brugh royall." The Convention 
resolved to petition his Majesty to cancel the charter, on this 
ground among others : " The said burgh of Stronway can 
not be erected an frie brugh royall efter the maner conteynit 
in the signature thairof, becaus it is against the daylie prac- 
tique and lawis of this cuntrey, quhairby thair aucht to be 

150 History of Sanquhar. 

no burgh royall hot whair the haill hounds and lands quher- 
vpone the same is buildit, with the biggings and borrow 
ruids thairof is of his Maiesties propertie allanerlie, and being 
erected in ane frie royaltie sould hold of his Maiestie in frie 
burgage ... so that the inhabitants can have no vthers 
overs lord or mediat superior bot his Maiestie allanerlie, &c." 
The objection to Stornoway was that it was held in feu from 
the Earl of Seyfort, and we find that, after negotiation on 
the subject, the King granted the petition of the Convention, 
and cancelled the charter which he had been induced to 

The usual form of charter was of such a kind as to confer 
upon the burgesses or citizens the exclusive right of trading 
within the burgh, and (what must have been highly prized 
in those times, when the general population was so thoroughly 
at the mercy of the feudal barons) the right of criminal juris- 
diction. A perusal of the Sanquhar Charter which follows 
will shew how extensive this jurisdiction was, embracing, as 
it did, the trial of all offences, even those of the gravest 
character, and carrying with it the power of inflicting capital 
punishment. It can be readily understood how highly the 
citizens would regard the right of being tried, not by a petty 
tyrant, ignorant, capricious, and cruel, but by the magistrates 
of their own town. The fact is, that these royal burghs were 
fostered and encouraged by the Scottish sovereigns as a 
counterpoise to the feudal power possessed by the nobles and 
barons, which was so great as to render them almost, and at 
certain times altogether, independent of the crown. It was 
in the burghs, too, that arts and manufactures were first 
practised, and exclusive privileges of trading were conferred 
on the burgesses or citizens. The idea of citizenship was 
derived from the Roman occupation, and reminds us of the 
occasion when St. Paul, threatened with scourging, claimed 
exemption on the ground of his citizenship. " Civis Momanus 
sum " was a claim which no outside authority dared to dis- 
regard or treat otherwise than with the highest respect. In 

History of Sanquhar. 151 

addition to the vatuable local privileges and immunities 
enjoyed by royal burghs, they also, from a very early time, 
were possessed of political rights, through their representa- 
tion in the Scottish Parliament. This representation is 
mentioned for the first time in the Parliament of King 
Robert the Bruce, held at Cambuskenneth in 1326. There 
is reason to believe, however, that they may have been 
present at the Parliaments of 1314 and 1315, and 1318, and 
certainly some of the burghs were parties to the treaty with 
France in 1295. 

The Royal Burghs in Scotland in early times entered into 
combinations for mutual advice and support, one of these, 
known as the House, comprising the burghs north of the 
Grampians ; those in the south being presided over by the 
Great Chamberlain of the kingdom. This association in- 
cluded at first only Edinburgh, Stirling, Berwick, and 
Roxburgh, the place of the two last-named, which had 
fallen into the hands of the English, being taken, in 1368, 
by Lanark and Linlithgow. The four burghs met annually 
for the purpose of disposing of appeals from judgments of 
the Great Chamberlain in his circuit. In 1405 their con- 
stitution was extended to include two or three burgesses of 
each Royal Burgh on the south of the river Spey " to corn- 
pear yearly at their convention, wheresoever held, to treat, 
ordain, and determine upon all things concerning the utility 
of the common weal of all the King's burghs, their liberties 
and court." Edinburgh was then the place of annual meet- 
ing, and James I. ordained, with consent of the Three Estates 
of his realm, that it should continue thenceforward to be so, 
and this ordinance was confirmed by James II. in 1454. An 
Act of the Scottish Parliament, held at Edinburgh in 1487, 
enacted that " yearly in time to come commissioners of all 
burghs, both south and north, should convene and gather 
together in the burgh of Inverkeithing, on the morning after 
St. James's day (25th July)," each burgh failing to send a 
commissioner being subjected to a fine of 5, to be applied 

152 History of Sa nquha r. 

to the expenses of the Convention. For some reason or other 
this enactment seems, for a time, to have been disregarded, 
for, so late as 1500, these assemblies, still meeting in Edin- 
burgh, retained the designation of "the Parliament of the 
Four Burghs," and continued to be presided over by the 
Lord Chamberlain. However, the minute of 1529, and all 
subsequent minutes, refer to the acts set forth in them as 
having been passed by the Commissioners of the Burghs 
alone, and make no mention of the Lord Chamberlain. To 
ensure attendance, the fine to be exacted from burghs 
which did not appear by their commissioners was raised 
by an Act of Convention in 1555 to 10. The meetings of 
Convention appear to have been very irregular, due, probably, 
to the unsettled condition of the country, and also to neglect 
on the part of the burgh in which the Convention was to be 
held to despatch the notices of meeting to the other burghs. 
That this latter was, in several instances, the cause of 
irregularity, is clear from the fact that an appointment to 
hold a Convention in St. Andrew's in 1570 is accompanied 
by the threat that " gif thai failze, thar sail nocht be ony 
convention appoyntit to be in thair toun at ony tyme heir- 
efter, becaus thair was syndrie conventions appoyntit to be 
in the said toun abefoir, and nocht keipit in thair defalt." 
In 1578, the burghs were authorised by an Act of Parliament 
of James VI. held at Stirling, " to convene four times a year 
in such burgh as might be most convenient to the rest, 
whereat each burgh should be represented by one commis- 
sioner, except the town of Edinburgh, which should have 
two." The burghs continued, however, as hitherto to meet 
at such times and places as they thought fit, determined 
frequently with reference to the meetings of Parliament, of 
which the representatives of the burghs formed a constituent 

The Act of 1581, c. 26, ratified and approved the former 
Acts of Parliament, relative to the Convention of Burghs, 
and likewise confirmed the increase of the penalty for non- 

History of Sanqvliar. 153 

appearance at the Convention to 20, to which sum it had 
been raised by an Act of the Convention held in 1579, and 
which fine was imposed on absentees from the Convention 
held at Aberdeen in the following year. This Act of 1581 is 
still in observance, excepting with regard to the recovery of 
penalties, proceedings being now taken at the instance of 
the agent of the Convention, in place of the letters of horn- 
ing at the instance of the burgh of Edinburgh. During the 
greater part of the seventeenth century, the Convention had 
no particular place of meeting, sederuuts having been held 
during that period in most of the principal towns viz., Edin- 
burgh, Glasgow, Perth, Dundee, Aberdeen, Stirling, Cupar, 
Haddington, Queensferry, Jedburgh, Culross, Ayr, and 
Dunbar. Since 1704, Edinburgh has invariably been the 
meeting-place of the Convention. 

It was the function of the ancient Parliament of the Four 
Burghs, the proto-type of the more modern Convention, to 
decide questions involving the usages of the burghs, and the 
rights arid privileges of the burgesses, and it even legislated 
in regard to such matters as the principles of moveable 
succession. An instance of this is to be found in the 
proceedings of a Parliament of Edward I. in 1292, where, in 
a private suit depending on the law and practice of the 
Burghs of Scotland, the Four Burghs were consulted, and 
judgment was pronounced in conformity with their record 
and verdict. Further, as has already been mentioned, they 
were in use to determine appeals from the judgment of the 
Great Chamberlain of the kingdom. The Court of the Four 
Burghs held at Stirling, in 1405, also enacted a series of 
regulations of a general character, affecting the rights, 
duties, and privileges of the burgesses. As it is put in the 
quaint language of the time, they met " to commune and 
trete apoun the welefare of merchandes, the glide rewle and 
statutis for the commoun proffit of burrowis, and to provide for 
remede apoun the scaith and injuris sustenet within burrowis;" 
or, in the more modern language of Sir Jamps Marwick 


154 History of Sanquhar. 

in his preface to the " Records of the Convention of Royal 
Burghs of Scotland," it defined the rights, privileges, and 
duties of burghs; it regulated the merchandise, manufactures, 
and shipping of the country; it exercised control over the 
Scottish merchants in France, Flanders, and other countries 
in Europe, with which from time to time commercial rela- 
tions existed ; it sent commissioners to foreign powers and 
to great commercial communities, entered into treaties with 
them, and established the staple trade of Scotland, wherever 
this could be most advantageously done ; it claimed the right, 
independently of the Crown, to nominate the Conservator, 
and it certainly did regulate his emoluments and control his 
conduct ; it sometimes defrayed, and sometimes contributed 
towards, the expenses of ambassadors from the Scottish Court 
to that of France and other foreign powers in matters affecting 
the Burghs and the common weal ; it allocated among the 
whole Burghs of the kingdom their proportions of all extents 
and taxes granted by the Three Estates of the realm ; it 
adjudicated upon the claims of burghs to be admitted to the 
privilege of free Burghs, and to be added to its roll ; it took 
cognisance of weights and measures ; it submitted proposi- 
tions to Parliament in regard to all matters affecting the 
interests of the country, and influenced to an incalculable 
extent the national legislation. In a word, it formed a 
complete and powerful organisation for the protection of 
burghal rights and privileges, and for the promotion of what- 
ever the Burghs conceived to be for their own interest and 
that of the country generally." 

The foregoing summary of the history and functions of the 
Convention of Royal Burghs covers a period anterior to the 
creation of Sanquhar as a Royal Burgh. Although, there- 
fore, it has no direct relation to the history of Sanquhar in 
particular, yet it has been thought well to give the reader 
an idea, however imperfect, of the place occupied by the 
burghs in Scotland in the body politic, and the part which 
they played in our national history, and of the functions dis- 

History of Sanquhar. 155 

charged by the Convention prior to the time when the burgh 
of Sanquhar was admitted within the sacred circle. 

The Convention had ever been a thoroughly loyal body, 
and it seems, even in the most troubled times, to have suc- 
ceeded in maintaining good relations with the crown and the 
government. In 1660, on the representation of the Lord 
Chancellor (Glencairne), it passed a resolution debarring any 
person guilty of disloyalty to his Majesty's government, or 
who had deserted any charge in his Majesty's armies, from 
being admitted to any place of " magistracie, counsall, or 
office of deaconrie within burgh." 

The Charter erectiig Sanquhar into a Royal Burgh was 
granted by James VI. in 1598, and we find that steps were 
taken without delay to have its name enrolled in the Con- 
vention of "Royal Burghs of Scotland. It will be observed 
that in the royal charter Sanquhar is described as being 
at that time " anciently a free burgh of barony." The Deed 
relating to its creation as a burgh of barony is of date 1484, 
but that was a re-erection. The standing of Sanquhar as a 
burgh is even more ancient than that, but the precise date 
cannot be fixed. 


James, by the grace of God, King of the Scots, to the Sheriff of Dumf reis, 
and his substitutes, also to my lovites ....... 

and each of them conjunctly and separately, my Sheriffs of Dumfreis in 
that part, greeting, because we, understanding the burgh of Sanquhar, 
lying within the Sheriffdom of Dumfries, anciently a free bnrgh of barony, 
to have been endowed and infeft by us and our noble predecessors, with 
all liberties, privileges, and immunities whatsoever belonging to a free 
burgh of barony within this kingdom ; also recalling to memory the good, 
faithful, and gratuitous service done and performed constantly, in all 
times past, to us and our predecessors by the burgesses and inhabitants of 
the said burgh, according to their power and ability, and because our 
beloved cousin Robert, Lord Crichton of Sanquhar, by this special deed 
subscribed with his own hand, dated the 14th day of the mouth of Decem- 
ber, in the year of our Lord, 1596, lias agreed that the said burgh of 
Sanquhar (which formerly had been a free burgh of barony) be now, and 
in all times to come, erected and created a free Royal Burgh, with all the 
other immunities and privileges which it shall please us to grant to the 

156 History of Sanquhar. 

same, we therefore, in order to place hi a better situation the burgesses 
and inhabitants of the foresaid burgh, that they may continue their faith- 
ful service and wonted obedience in time to come, also for the construction 
and building of houses and establishing police within the said burgh, and 
for the accommodation of our lieges repairing there and establishing inns, 
have made, created, and erected, and by the tenor of these presents, do 
make, create, and erect the said burgh of Sanquhar, with the lands and 
others belonging to the same, into one free Royal Burgh, to be held of us 
and our successors, and also we have given, granted, and disponed, and by 
the tenor of these presents, do give, grant, and dispone to the provost, 
bailies, councillors, community, and inhabitants of our foresaid burgh of 
Sanquhar, and their successors for ever, heritably All and Whole the same 
burgh of Sanqiihar, together with all lands, tenements, annual rents, mills, 
mill lands, multures, woods, fishings, coals, coal-heughs, muirs, marshes, 
rocks, mountains, commonty and others, whatsoever belonging to the 
before-named burgh and liberty of the same, with the bridge of the said 
burgh, and with the customs, liberties, privileges, and immunities pertain- 
ing to any other of our free Royal Burghs within the kingdom, and granted 
in any time past preceding the date of these presents, and with full, free, 
and express power to the aforesaid provost, bailies, councillors, community, 
and inhabitants of the said burgh, and their successors, of building 
water-mills and wind-mills, one or more upon any part within the 
bounds of the foresaid burgh, and lands belonging to the same, where 
it shall seem most proper to them, and of having in the said burgh 
one chief prison, with a market-place and market-cross, with throne and 
throne-weights ; also, of having in the same two weekly market days in 
every week, viz., Wednesday and the Sabbath day, and annually in every 
year three fairs, to wit, one of them annually at the feast of St. Felix, 
being the second last day of May ; another of^them at the feast of Mary 
Magdalene, being the twenty-second of the month of July ; and the third 
of them annually at the feast of St. Luke the Evangelist, being the eighth 
day of the month of October annually, and of keeping, and continuing 
each of the said fairs for the space of eight days, during these eight days, 
with all liberties, customs, tolls, and profits belonging and pertaining to 
the foresaid markets and fairs ; and with power, privilege, and liberty, 
within our said burgh of creating and constituting free burgesses ; also to 
the foresaid burgesses and inhabitants in the said burgh of electing and 
creating annually, once in the year, or as often as need shall be, two, 
three, or more bailies, a treasurer, dean of guild, common clerk, and other 
officers necessary for the administration of justice within our said burgh, 
and in the same to loiss laid packet peill all goods of staple and other free 
merchandise, and of sailing to any free ports with the same, in the same 
manner, and as freely, in all respects, as any other free burgess or free 
burgesses within any other free royal burgh within this our realm, and with 
power to the foresaid provost and baillies of the foresaid burgh, in all time 

History of Sanquhar. 157 

to come, of receiving resignations, of proclaiming and serving the brieves 
of our Chancery, and of granting infeftments upon the lands, tenetnen ts, 
and annual rents lying within our said burgh, and liberty of the same : 
Also, of framing acts and statutes for the regulation of the same, of 
fencing, holding, and continuing a court and courts, as often as need shall 
be, of levying the sentences, fines, bloodwitts, and escheats of the said 
courts, and applying the same to the common good of the said burgh, and, 
if it shall be necessary, of seizing and distraining for the same, of taking, 
apprehending, attaching, arresting transgressors and offenders, and of 
punishing with death those legally convicted according to ou> law, with 
gallows, pit, sok, sak, thole, theme, infangthieff, outfangthieff, pit and 
gallows, with all other and singular liberties, privileges, and immunities 
belonging to any other free Royal Burgh within this our kingdom, as in 
our charter made thereupon is more fully contained ; we charge and order 
you that you cause sasineto be justly given to the foresaid provost, baillies, 
counsellors, and community, or their certain attornies, bearers thereof, of 
all and whole the foresaid burgh of Sanquhar and others, above recited, 
according to the form of our aforesaid charter, which they hold from us, 
and without delay ; and this you in no ways omitt, for doing which we 
committ power to you, and each of you,*conjunctly and severally, our 
Sheriffs of Dumfreis in that part. Given under the testimony of our great 
seal at Falkland, the 18th day of the month of August, 1598, and of our 
reign the thirty -second year. 

Upon this precept infeftment was taken the 2nd day of 
October, 1598. 

In the latter portion of the charter, which deals with 
matters connected with criminal jurisdiction, very extensive 
powers are conferred, it will be observed, on the magistrates, 
in terms of modern phraseology, but there follow others, 
which are now obsolete and scarcely understood. They are 
" sok, sak, thole, theme, infangthieff, outfangthieff." The 
following is a brief explanation of their meaning. These 
are terms regularly used for hundreds of years previous to 
the date of the Sanquhar charter. So far back as 1182, 
Cosmo Inues informs us, the powers conveyed by them were 
conferred by William the Lion on the Monks of Arbroath ; 
and they became part of the regular phraseology of burgh 
charters in later times. We quote from the above writer, 
who was a high authority on such questions. " Sac is the 
abbreviation of Sacu, and means the jurisdiction or right of 

158 History of Sanquhar. 

judging litigious suits. Soc strictly denotes the district 
included within such a jurisdiction ; and Socen, from which 
it is derived, means the right of investigating cognate to 
the word seek." Soc and Sac are spelt Sok and Sak in the 
Sanquhar charter, but they are manifestly the same words. 

Thol or Thole has sometimes been supposed to mean 
exemption from toll or custom, and that was one of the 
exemptions of the Arbroath monks ; but Innes prefers the 
interpretation which makes thol the definite technical 
privilege the right of exacting the duty rather than the 
right of refusing to pay it. " In this way," he says, " I hold 
it to mean, and to grant to the holder of the charter the 
right to exact custom or customary payment for goods passing 
through his land." We think he is right in so interpreting 
it, in the case of burgh charters at least, and that here 
we have the origin of those petty customs .which it was the 
right, down to a very recen.t,date, of all royal burghs to exact. 

Them or Theme is explained as warranty, a word which 
has a very great variety of meanings in connection with 
jurisdictions and forms of process of old. It indicates a 
system of pledge or warranty, as applied to the recovery of 
stolen goods. 

Infang-thieff or thef is a word expressing the right to 
judge and punish a thief caught " with the fang" within the 
charter-holder's jurisdiction. 

Outfang-thieff or thef gave the same power over a thief 
caught beyond the jurisdiction of the lord, he being followed 
and caught with the fang. Such a grant gave the holder of 
the charter a right to the amercements, the escheats, all the 
goods and chattels which the thief could forfeit; hence it 
was that these rights of baronial jurisdiction were so much 

The two first words, Gallows and Pit, in the enumeration 
of the powers and rights conferred by the charter are 
sufficiently well understood, and are referred to elsewhere as 
the form of inflicting capital punishment the gallows or 

History of Fanquhar. 159 

hanging for male, and the pit or drowning for female 

Other writers, it may be noted, attach different meanings 
to one or two of these old words, but Innes, whom we have 
followed, is, as has been already stated, one of the highest 
authorities on questions of this kind. 

Though it bears a much later date, there follows here for 
the sake of connection a copy of the Sett or Constitution of 
the burgh. 


" In the Generall Convention of the Royal Burrows, holden at the Burgli 
of Edinburgh, upon the fifteen day of July, one thousand seven hundred 
and eight years, by the commissioners therein convened. 

"The which day the Convention finding by experience that nothing 
doth creat more trouble to them than irregularities and abuses com- 
mitted by particular burghs in electing their Magistrates and touu 
counsell contrare to their sett and ancient constitution : Therefore, 
the Convention, to obviat this inconvenience in time comeing, statut 
and appoint that each royall burgh within this kingdom send up their 
sett to the clerks of the burrows to be recorded in a particular book 
to be keeped for that purpose, to the end that any question about their 
res'cive setts may be quickly discust upon producing the said book, and 
that betwixt and the next convention, certifying such as shall faill herein, 
they shall be fined by the next annual convention in the sum of Two 
hundred pounds Scots money," and the sett of the royal burgh of Sanquhar 
is of the following tenor : " Set of the burgh of Sanquhar, made by 
recommendation in the sixth act Gn'al Convention, 1713 Whereas, the 
last general convention having recommended to the commissioners of the 
burghs of Dumfrice, Kirkcudbright, Annan, and Lochmaben, to ascertain 
a set for the burgh of Sanquhar, and we having, conform to that recom- 
mendation, considered duly the chartours and custom of the said burgh : 
wee are of opinion that for all time hereafter their set should be that they 
shall have a provost, three bailies, dean of gild, and treasurer, witli eleven 
councilors, making in all seventeen, and that these shall bs of heretors, 
merchants, or tradesmen, burgesses, residenters within the said burgh ; 
and that these, nor any of them, shall continue longer than one year, 
unless they be choiced again, and at least that there be four new councilors 
yearly, and that the old council shall still choice the new annually at 
Michalmass, if it fall on a Munday, if otherways, then the first Munday 
after Michalmass. In witness whereof, we and the provost of the said 
burgh of Sanquhar, have subscribed these presents at Edinburgh, the ninth 
day of July, one thousand, seven hundred and fourteen years Sic sub- 

160 History of Sanquhar. 

scribilur, John Corsbic, for Dumfrice ; Wm. Johnston, for Annan ; John 
Kirkpatrick, for Kirkudbright ; Geo. Kennedy, Lochmaben ; Ab. 
Crichton, provost of Sanquhar. " 

The following is extracted from the Minutes of the Con- 
vention of 1600, when Sanquhar was enrolled among the 
Royal Burghs of Scotland : 

BURGHS, 1600. 

Extract from Minute of Meeting of General Convention of the Royal Burghs 
of Scotland, holden at Kinrjhorn, the thirteenth and subsequent days of 
June, 1600. Decimo sexto Janii, 1600. 

" The samyn day, comperit Jhone Creychtouu and Robert Phillop, 
induellaris in the toun of Sanquhar, and gawe in thair supplicatioun 
desyring the said toun to be inrollit and admitit in the societie and 
number of fre burrows as aue brugh regall, and offerit thair concurrence 
in all thingis with the rest of the burrowis and obedience to the lawis 
thairof, and producit the erectioun of thair said toun be our souerane lord 
in ane brugh regall, to be holdin of our souerane lord and his successouris 
iu fre burgage, for payment of fyve pundis of borrow male, as at mair 
lenthe is contenit in the said erectioun vnder his maiesteis Grit Seill, daitit 
at Falkland the xviij day of August 1598, quhilk being red in oppin 
awdience of the saidis Commissioneris and considerit be thame, thay be 
thir presentis INROLLIS and ADMITTIS the said touu of Sanquhar in 
ane fre brugh regall, nvmber and societie thairof, conforme to his maiesties 
erectioun, and ordanis the saidis persouns to caus thair said brugh send 
thair commissioneris sufficientle instrucit to the next conventioun general), 
with speciall powir to ratefy and approve the lawis and constitutiouus of 
the conventioun of burrowis, with thair promeis to fulfill and obey the 
samyn, beir burding with the burrowis in all thair commoun effairis, 
concur, fortefe, and assist them in manteyneing the liberte and preueledgeis 
of fre burrowis according to thair powir, and to keep thair conventioun 
generall and particular as thai salbe warnet thairto, and this to be ane heid 
of the next missiue : quhairof thai ordane ane copy thairoff to be send to 
the said brugh for keiping and holding the said conventioun generall, and 
Rodger Maknacht become sourety for the said John Creychtoun and Robert 
Phillop that thai sail reporte to the nixt conventioun generall the consent 
of the said brugh to the premessis, and of thair suite to their inrollment, 
vnder the pane of xx li." 

While valuable privileges were conferred upon the burghs 
they, at the same time, had certain burdens laid upon them 
for various public purposes. We find that, on emergency, the 

Histo ry of Sanquhai : 161 

King looked to them for necessary materials in time of war ; 
for, on one occasion, the Convention made arrangements for 
supplying soap and candles to the King's troops. Contribu- 
tions were also made, on important occasions, for the main- 
tenance of the dignity of the Crown, and the expenses of the 
royal household after the manner of a Parliamentary vote 
of the present day. For example, the sum of 20,000 Scots 
was allowed to James V. in 1535, on his visit to France, 
" for sustaining his honourable expenses in the parts of 
France;" and in 1557 10,000 was granted towards the 
expenses of Queen Mary's marriage with the Dauphin of 
France. (J rants, too, were made towards the expenses of 
ambassadors sent abroad on important diplomatic missions. 
All this conveys an impression of the dignity and power of 
the burghs, and the important services which they rendered 
as a set off to the favours bestowed upon them by the Crown. 
For the purpose of allocating these burdens, the Convention 
framed what would in our day be called a valuation roll, but 
was then styled the " Taxt Roll," which contained the names 
of all the burghs which had been duly " iurollit," with the 
proportion of any charge which each should bear, taking 
100 as the unit. In the year 1601, therefore, we find that 
at the Convention held at Sanctandrois (St. Andrews) the 
following minute was passed relative to the sum at which 
Sanquhar should be assessed on the extent roll : " The 
samyn day, in consideration!! that the brugh of Sanquhar is 
inrollit in the nvmber of fre burrowis and as zit nocht put 
in the extent roll, theirfor thai haue thocht guid to set and 
extent the said brugh to the soume of thre schillingis foure 
pennies of ilk hundrethe pundis of the soumes quhairin the 
remanent burrowis salbe extentit heirefter, and this to indure 
quhill the nixt alteratioun of the taxt rollis." 

There was a re-adjustment from time to time of this taxt- 
roll. These changes were due, of course, to the discovery of 
hitherto unknown natural resources, to the establishment of 
new industries, with the consequent increase of population 


162 History of Sanquitar. 

and of the volume of trade, and, in those rude and unsettled 
times, to the fortunes of war. It is interesting to note how 
comparatively unimportant then were certain towns, which 
have since risen to the position of principal cities in the 
kingdom, while many have remained almost stagnant, and 
some have shrunk into comparative obscurity. Glasgow is 
the most notable example of the first-mentioned class, for in 
a re-adjustment of the taxt-roll made in 1670, on the report 
of a committee which had made " exact tryell of the trade, 
comon good, and floorishing estate of severall burghis, 
impartiallie," that town was taxed at 12 for every 100 of 
assessment, while Edinburgh stood at 33 6s 8d, Aberdeen 
at 7, and Dundee at 6 2s. On the other hand, Kirkcaldy's 
share was fixed at 2 6s, and St. Andrews at 2 6s 4d. Were 
a valuation on the same principle made now, what a complete 
revolution there would be ! 

The Convention, as a rule, was very exacting in the attend- 
ance of every burgh at its meetings, and we are sorry to 
observe that in 1601, the very first year after its admission, 
Sanquhar offended against the law in this regard, and was 
adjudged to pay " ane vnlaw of tuentie pundis for nocht 
compearance to this present conventioun, being lauchfulle 
warnet be the generall missiue to have comperit and com- 
perit nocht." 

The " unlavv " or penalty of twenty pounds Scots for non- 
compearance was in 1665 raised to the sum of "one hundreth 
punds Scots, because the Commissioners found that the 
greater part of the burghs absented themselves of purpose,'' 
preferring to pay the fine rather than incur the expense of 
attending the Convention. This can be well understood con- 
sidering the difficulty of communication at a time when there 
were scarcely any roads except mere bridle-paths. However, 
the stringency of this rule of regular attendance was relaxed 
on good cause shewn, such as the distance of the burgh from 
the place of meeting, or its temporary poverty, and so the 
Convention was in the habit, on application made, of grant- 

History of Sanqii h ar. 163 

ing dispensation to burghs so situated. In 1689 a dispen- 
sation of this kind was granted to Sanquhar, which was 
exempted from sending a commissioner to conventions for 
three years, "in respect of the poverty of that burgh, and 
that they live at a great distance." 

The burghs were held strictly bound to see that the privi- 
leges of burgesses were not granted to any except such 
persons as resided within the bounds of the royalty. Upon 
the rigid maintenance of this rule the whole svstem mani- 

O <j 

festly depended for its characteristic exclusiveness. While, 
therefore, it was the interest of every burgh that this rule 
should be enforced, there was a distinct temptation on the 
part of the smaller, poorer, and less populous burghs to 
depart from the rule, and admit persons outwith the bounds 
for the sake of the fees which were exacted for admission. 
Sanquhar had, if we are to believe the allegations made by 
Dumfries, yielded to the temptation, and, in consequence, a 
complaint was lodged by the latter to the Convention of 
1621, setting forth that the burgh of Sanquhar was guilty of 
" admitting day lie, burgessis sic as wobsters, cordineris, 
wakers, and vtheris of the lyik tred and occupatioun, duell- 
ing outwith thair burgh, and in taking of ane littill soume of 
money for the samin, to the grit preiudice of the nixt 
adjacent burgh of Dumfreis, thairfore thai ordane the burgh 
of Sanquhar to direct thair commissioner to the nixt generall 
conventioun of borrowis sufficientlie instructit to ansuer to 
the said complent." There is no further trace in the records 
of the Convention of this complaint, nor of what the deliver- 
ance on the subject was. In all probability, however, 
Dumfries had good grounds for its allegation ; at all events, 
in 1660, the Commissioners " approved of a letter by the 
moderator to the burgh of Sanquhair discharging them to 
suffer their burgessis to dwell in unfree places and exercise 
the liberty of free burghs." 

The terms " unfree trade " and " unfree traders " occur 
frequently in these records, and perhaps it is desirable for 

1 64 History of Sanquhar. 

the sake of the general reader to explain their significance. 
The exclusive privilege of carrying on foreign trade was 
given to freemen of the royal burghs of Scotland by a charter 
from King David, anno 1124, and this was confirmed by 
Parliament in almost every succeeding reign. In particular, 
the privilege was re-affirmed by the 84th Act, James IV., in 
] 503, all other persons being inhibited under high penalties, 
and it was ratified afresh in 1592. The monopoly of export 
enjoyed by the royal burghs was, however, abolished in 1672, 
the right being extended to burghs of regality and burghs of 
barony, but was again revived in 1690, excepting as regards 
such commodities as noblemen and barons should import for 
their own use, and not for sale, and the privilege of retailing 
all foreign commodities was given to burghs of regality 
and burghs of barony, " provydeing they buy the same from 
freemen of royal burrows allenarly." In 1693 an Act of 
Parliament, entitled " ane Act for the communication of 
trade," was passed confirming an Act of the Convention of 
Burghs, which communicated the privilege of trade to the 
" burghs of regalities, barronys, and others, upon their 
paying or relieving of the royal burghs of a propor- 
tional part of the tax-roll imposed upon them by act of 
parliament corresponding to their trade." The trading, then, 
which was conducted outside of burghs, or in burghs of 
regality or barony which refused to fulfil the conditions 
under which it was granted to them, was called " uufree 
trading," and those who engaged in such traffic were called 
" unfree traders." The royal burghs which, in consideration of 
the monopoly of trading secured to them by the charters of 
sovereigns and acts of parliament, were subjected to certain 
burdens, some of them, such as the land-tax, perpetual, and 
others of a special kind, which recurred from time to time, 
naturally complained to the Crown and Parliament of this 
unfree trading. There is no subject which crops up more 
frequently in the records of the Convention and gave the 
burghs greater concern ; for the practice of unfree-trading, 

History of Sanquhar. 165 

whenever it became general, proved fatal to the prosperity of 
the burgh. As an example of this, the burgh of Sanqnhar, 
in the report given in by their two bailies to the committee 
of the Convention, sitting in Dumfries in 1692, attribute the 
decayed condition of their trade to this cause. 

" The Convention, upon a petition from the burgh of 
Sanquhar, representing the poverty of their burgh, and their 
particular case and condition, had for long continued a 
head of the missive, granted warrand to the magistrats and 
council of the said burgh [to pursue the unfree traders within 
the Presbytery of Penpont, and to compound with them on 
same terms as Kirk wall was authorised by the 26th Act]." 

The Convention took upon herself the care of all the 
burghs. Although stern and resolute in compelling a strict 
adherence by all the burghs to their constitution, and the 
laws by which they were regulated, and quick and sensitive 
to all that concerned their well-being and prosperity as a 
whole, her ear was ever open to the complaint of the most 
obscure member of the family, and her hand was often 
extended in relief in times of difficulty and distress. 

Her solicitude for the welfare of the whole is well illustrated 
by the fact that she instructed a register to be made con- 
taining the state and condition of every burgh within the 
kingdom of Scotland in 1692. 

The following is a copy of the Report upon the burgh of 
Sanquhar : 

At Dtimfreise, the twentie third day of Aprill j m vjc and nyntie two 
years, Compeired James Fletcher, provost of Dundie, and Alexander 
Walker, bailly of Aberdeen, commissionars appoynted by the royall 
borrowes for visiting the wholl burghs royall be south and west the river 
of Forth, the present magistrats of the burgh of Sauchar, who gave in ane 
accompt of ther patrimonie and comon good, with ther answer to the saides 
visitors instructions as follows : 

1. First article, answered that ther comon good amounts only to fourteen 
pound four shillings and eight pennies Scots, and that ther debts amounts 
to two hundreth pound Scots of principall. 

2. As to the second article, it is answered that they have 110 mortifica- 

166 History of Sanquhar. 

3. As to the third article, it is answered that they are not concerned 

4. As to the fourth article, it is answered that they are not concerned 
therein, having no seaport. 

5. As to the fyfth article, it is answered that they have thesauers bookes, 
ther comon good being soe inconsiderable, and that ther liquies extends 
yearly with ther clerks dewes and other casualities to fourteen pounds. 

6. As to the sixth article, it is answered that they have no forraigne 
trade, and that ther inland trade consists only of some few sheeps skins, 
butter and cheese, and few merchant goodes from Edinburgh, and that 
they vent no French wynes, nor seek, but a little brandie, and that they 
consume about two bolls of malt weekly. 

7. As to the seventh article, it is answered that they have no ships, 
barks, or boats belonging to them. 

8. As to the eighth article, it is answered that they neither are owners 
nor pairtners of ships belonging either to burghs royall, of regality or 
barronie, nor are they concerned in trade with unfree burghs. 

9. As to the nynth article, it is answered that they pay cess by a taxa- 
tion on ther inhabitants for ther houses and borrow acres. 

10. As to the tenth article, it is answered that ther minister is payed out 
of the teynds of the paroch wherof ther land payes a pairt effeirand to ther 
teind ; ther schoollmaster is maintained according to the number of 
schoolars by weekly intertainment from ther respective parents, besides 
twelve pounds yearly of fie laid on by stent on ther lands ; the rest of the 
publict servants are payed by stent on ther inhabitants. 

11. As to the elleaventh article, it is answered that all their publict 
works are maintained by tax on themselves. 

12. As to the twelth article, its answered that the rest of ther houses 
will be of rent betwixt fourty and fyfty shillings Scots inclusive ; no 
strangers in their burgh. 

13. As to the thretteenth article, it is answered that they have thrie 
yearly fairs of one dayes containwance, and that ther customes are con- 
tained in ther comon good as in the first article. 

14. As to the fourteen article, it is answered that they are surrounded 
with burghs of barronie and regality whois retaill of staple goodes destroyes 
totally ther trade. * 

This is the trew accompt of the toun of Sanquhar's patrimonie and 
comon good in answer to the above written queries which are given up, 
upon oath, by the saids undersubscryveing to the saides visitors day aud 
date forsaid. Sic subscribitur : Ro. Park, baillie, Alex. Creitchtoune, 

Grants were frequently made out of the funds of the Con- 
vention to individual burghs in the furtherance of necessary 
works for the public convenience, and in the interests of 

History of Sanquhar. 167 

public order. Thus, in 1682, there was remitted to next 
General Convention " petition of Sancquher craveing some 
supplie for repairing of their bridge and tolbooth, and putting 
them in a conditione to continue a member of the royall 
burrows." Nothing appears to have been done, and a petition 
in this altered form " bearing that the tolbuith, the cross, 
and bridge is altogether rowinous," was presented to the 
Convention of 1688, when the Convention remitted to three 
of the commissioners to visit the burgh and report. What 
the report was does not appear, nor that any action was 
taken at that time ; but, in 1697, eight years later, " the 
Convention, having considered the petition of Sanquhar, 
appointed the agent to pay 10 sterling towards the repaira- 
tion of the tolbooth of the said burgh." It was not then alone 
that Sanquhar was the recipient of the bounty of the Con- 
vention, for, in 1704 there was allowed to the burgh 100 
Scots of present supply, and in the following year " Sanquhar 
and New-Galloway and Stranraer were each allowed 40 
in consideration of the low and decayed condition of the 
saids burghs ;" and again, in 1727, Sanquhar is allowed 12 
sterling to be applied to the repair of the Tolbooth and other 
public works. 

In the early days of the Convention, the qualification of 
commissioners was more restricted than it is now. For some 
hundreds of years no one was allowed to sit as a commissioner 
unless he were an inhabitant of the burgh, and his interests 
identified with those of the general community which he 
represented. Thus, in 1675, it is ordained that none but 
" merchand traffiqueris " are to be appointed commissioners. 
Previously, in 1660, the commission from Sanquhar was 
refused because it was in favour of a person not qualified, a 
course which was frequently taken, and shewed the resolution 
of the Convention to preserve the purity of the representation 
to secure that it should be composed of members who could 
take an intelligent part in its business, and had no other 
object to serve but to guard the rights and promote the 

168 History of Sanquhar. 

general interests of the burghs. Hence we find that, in 
those days, political faddists had no place in the Convention ; 
time was not wasted in the discussion of the schemes of 
political busybodies, or of questions of a political party 
character ; but the Convention never for a moment lost sight 
of the end and purpose of their meeting. They jealously 
guarded the rights and privileges of the burghs from the 
encroachments either of the Crown or the nobles, or of the un- 
enfranchised multitude outside, and were constantly engaged 
in the consideration of questions of trade and commerce 
affecting the interests of their constituents. 

At a later time, that is in the beginning of last century, 
the stringency of the Convention's regulations as to the 
qualification of a commissioner appears to have been some- 
what relaxed, for, from 1718 to 1726, Sanquhar was repre- 
sented by one George Irving, who was neither an inhabitant 
of the town nor a " merchant trafficker," but a W.S. in 
Edinburgh. This George Irving deserves more than a mere 
passing notice, for he seems to have been a person of great 
business capacity and soundness of judgment, and, by the 
active part which he took in the business of the Convention, 
he brought the name of Sanquhar into honourable promi- 
nence in the records of that body. His qualities would 
appear to have been known before he entered the Conven- 
tion, for no sooner did he take his seat there, in the year 
1718, than he was employed on important committee work, 
dealing with the questions of the fisheries and " unfree 
trading." In 1720, he first sat at the general Convention, 
and, for some years thereafter, there was scarcely a member 
who possessed in a higher degree the confidence of the Con- 
vention. He was, in 1724, appointed one of three commis- 
sioners to meet at Dunfermline " to determine all differences 
that may happen in the elections, agreeable to the meaning 
and extent of the decreet arbitral, that the peace of the said 
burgh may be establisht in time coming." He had, however, 
in 1720, received a still more important nomination, for, in 

History of Sanquhar. 169 

that year, the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, having been 
appointed to proceed to London as the plenipotentiary of 
the Convention to negotiate with the King and the Ministry 
in the "burrowes affaires," appointed Mr Irving, commissioner 
for the burgh of Sanquhar, to assist him. In July, 1721, a 
committee was appointed to receive from the commissioner 
for the burgh of Sanquhar a report of what was transacted at 
London in the royal burrows' concerns. The report was 
given in, and met with the approval of the Convention, which 
thereupon " ordered payment to the Lord Provost of 500 
guineas, and to his assessor (Mr Geo. Irving) of 200 guineas 
for defraying their charges." Finally, with regard to this 
distinguished representative of Sanquhar, we note that, in 
1728, George Irving, described as a <: wryter to the signet," 
was elected agent of the burghs. 

A list of the various representatives of Sanquhar at the 
Convention will be found in the appendix. This list illus- 
trates the changes which the spelling of the name of the 
town has undergone. 

A curious entry occurs in the minutes of 1772, where we 
read that " Allan Ramsay having been engaged to write a 
poem in support of the Convention's dealing with the fishery 
question, he is allowed a gratuity by the Convention of 120 
Scots for writing the same, which is among his published 
works, entitled ' On the prospect of plenty a Poem on the 
North Sea Fishery,' and is inscribed ' To the Royal Burrows 
of Scotland.' " 

The first Minute Book extant of the Town Council of 
Sanquhar commences with the year 1718. The book would 
appear to have been the Protocol Book of William Whyte, 
Notary Public, and has, as usual with such books, the signa- 
ture of the Clerk of the Society of Notaries on the top of 
every page. It contains, first, a copy of Whyte's own com- 
mission as a Notary, and then follow copies of deeds drawn 
by him Tack by the Earl of Annandalu, and Seisin on Bond 


170 History of Sanqtikar. 

to James Johnstone by the Earl of Athole. The book, which 
consists of 32 pages or thereby, had in some way fallen 
into the hands of John Menzies, Town Clerk, by whom it had 
been turned to use as a Council Minute Book. It is to be 
regretted that the records of the Council prior to this date 
have disappeared, but, what is more to be wondered at, the 
Minute Book from 1817 to 1831, a comparatively recent 
period, is also awanting. The fly leaf of this earliest Minute 
Book is occupied with a list of the persons in the burgh, 
including of course Crawick Mill, which is within the ancient 
royalty, who were entitled to grazing on Sanquhar Moor, 
with the number of " Kyne " kept by each. When King 
James erected the burgh into a royalty, he endowed her with 
a fair patrimony. The boundaries are as follow : Starting 
at the river Nith, where the Corseburn flows into it, it ascends 
the course of said burn till where it is crossed by the Deer 
park dyke, follows the line of this dyke along the south of 
the town till the Townfoot burn is reached. Turning then 
sharp back, and ascending said burn to its source, it circles 
round by the Quarter Moor till the head of Conrick Burn 
is reached, when it follows down the course of said burn 
till it reaches Crawick, and down that stream to the old 
bridge. At this point it turns again towards the town, 
passes to the source of a little runlet, which, now covered 
over, ran along the hollow on the lower side of the railway 
to the head of Helen's Wynd, now St. Mary's Street. It 
then passes down behind the houses, crosses the turnpike 
road immediately behind the Town Hall, whence it follows 
the fall of the land on the north side of the Lochan, through 
the Ward park, across the Coal Road, into Blackaddie 
Mill-dam, and thence to the river Nith by the runner 
from said darn, which flows in at the foot of the " Minister's 
Pool." It will thus be seen that this was a right royal gift, 
extending to hundreds of acres, which, had it been judi- 
ciously and carefully administered, might have made 
Sanquhar one of the wealthiest little corporations in the 
whole country. But this was what could not be looked for in 

History of Sanquhar. 171 

times when the Town Councils of small burghs were hotbeds 
of corruption, and the councillors, self-elected, owned no 
responsibility, and occupied a position of perfect security. 
The first step towards appropriation was the soumes of grass, 
or rights of pasturage, which, granted by the Council to 
their friends, were made the foundation of claims, and were 
sustained. by the Court of Session in the Decree of Division 
in the year 1830. These soumes or grants of lands became 
ultimately so numerous as to swallow up one half, and that 
by far the better half, of the whole lands, and in process of time 
became absorbed into the hands of a few. The great bulk of the 
soumers, finding the privilege of grazing small crofts, situated 
at a considerable distance, to be no great advantage, parted 
readily enough with their rights to others who prized them 
more highly. The whole of the population had rights of 
pasturage on the common, and a large number of cows were 
kept in the town and Crawick Mill, and contributed in no 
small degree to the sustenance of the families of the labour- 
ing people. These cows were tended by a herd, the town 
cows and the Crawick Mill cows separately. The town herd's 
house was situated on the edge of the common, overlooking 
the town ; and, at an early hour of the morning, he paraded 
the street, blowing a horn, whereupon the cows were turned 
out by their owners to be gathered together into a drove by 
" herdie," and taken off up the Cow Wynd to the moor. The 
house for the herd was provided out of the town's funds. In 
1792, there are sums paid "for wood to the herd's house, and 
to a mason for work." The cow-herd was fed in the houses 
of the cow-keepers, according to a regular rotation, and in 
addition he received a shilling from each on the term day. 
This state of things continued down to about sixty years ago, 
at which time the holders of soumes banded themselves 
together and applied to the Court of Session for a division 
of the lands between them and the general community, in 
order that they might enclose and cultivate the portion that 
might be assigned to them as their share, there being no 

172 History of Sanquhar. 

encouragement to improve so long as these herds of cows 
roamed over the whole surface of the common. The rights 
of the soumers were admitted by the Court, and a decree of 
division was pronounced, whereby the common was split into 
two almost equal portions, the western portion going to the 
soumers, and the eastern portion to the town, the boundary 
being a line drawn from the top of Matthew's Folly straight 
through the moor in a north-easterly direction. The soumers 
then proceeded with the work of fencing, draining, and culti- 
vating their lands Though it was the case that, in the begin- 
ning of this century, the whole moor was pastured, it is evident 
that, at a very early period, the cultivation of the moor had 
been attempted, for we find that, in 1727, the Town Council 
" ordaine each heritor and tenant that has in his possession 
half an acre of avrable land, less or more, that he labour 
to sow the eighth part of ane Nithsdale peck of pease each 
year, and so proportionable upward, conform to their arrable 
land, and that the said Council shall oblidge a reasonable 
quantitie of good and sufficient pease to be brought in spring 
to the said burgh in due time for seed that the heritors and 
tennents be not disappointed ; and the same to be sold at a 
reasonable price, and that under the pain of five merks Scots 
money for ilk break toties quoties to be payed by ilk trans- 
gressor ; and for the preservance of the Growing Pease be it 
further enacted that each head of a familie be oblidged for 
himself and every one of his famiiie that shall be convicted of 
plucking, trampling, or any other ways abusing the said pease 
to pay a shilling sterling of fyne for each transgression, and 
whoever are taken in the said pease red-hand amongst them, 
whether growing or Cutt are to be set half an hour in the 
Joggs for each tyme, and they Doe appoint and ordaine the 
haill heritors and tennents within this brugh to keep and 
observe the same under the penalty foresaid." 

This ordinance refers to a particular sort of grain -measure, 
in vogue in Nithsdale in the eighteenth century, called the 
Nithsdale peck. We get at the capacity of this measure by 

History of Sanquhar. 173 

a reference to the rent-roll in kind of the estates of the Earl 
of Nithsdale, forfeited to the Crown in 1715, where the 
rent is stated both in Nithsdale arid ordinary measure, from 
which it would appear that 16 bolls 2 firlots of Nithsdale 
measure were equal to about 44 bolls ordinary measure. It 
likewise contains the earliest reference to be found in the 
minutes to that instrument of punishment, the " Joggs." This 
was for the object of exposing the delinquent to public 
reprobation and contempt, arid consisted of an iron ring 
affixed to the outer wall of the Town Hall, and running 
on an upright iron bar, to suit criminals of varying stature. 
It was at the corner next the street, and therefore the most 
public place in the town. An iron collar attached to the 
ring, and secured by a padlock, encircled the neck of the 
prisoner. The very last time that it was used was in 182 
for a case of housebreaking. The prisoner was a person of 
so diminutive stature that a stone had to be placed in the 
ground so as to raise his neck to the level of the ring. He 
had to stand there two hours on three successive days, one 
of which happened to be the quarterly market or fair. An 
aggravation of the punishment, where the offence excited 
public indignation, was the liberty which the populace 
received or took to pelt the delinquent with rotten eggs or 
other obnoxious missiles. The ring and stone are still to be 
seen in their place. 

Immediately after the division of the moor, the Magistrates 
resolved to let their portion to a tenant, on lease, but some 
hitch occurred, for the lease was immediately surrendered by 
the tenant, when it was decided to let cow's grass to the 
burgesses and inhabitants at the rate of 1 per head per 
annum, but they do not seem to have been willing to avail 
themselves of the opportunity, for, next year, an attempt to 
let it " all and whole," at a rent of 18 sterling, was made. 
No offer, however, was forthcoming, and ultimately it was 
agreed to erect a dividing dyke across the middle of it, and 
to let these two divisions the first, which was the part next 

174 History of Sanquhar. 

the town, consisting of 30 acres, in three lots of 10 acres 
each ; and the second division or back part, consisting of 
130 acres, in nine equal lots, on lease of nine years' duration, 
reserving about 20 acres of common near the Loch, for the 
use of the inhabitants for casting peats and divots, and for 
the accommodation of passing droves of cattle and sheep. 
The Council fixed the charge for cattle and sheep lying on 
the muir " at one penny per head of cattle and fourpence per 
score of sheep for a period of fifteen hours or under. If they 
continued longer they were to pay double so long as they 
remained." The Town Council succeeded by this process of 
sub-division in getting the land let, but their troubles only 
began at this stage, for the greatest difficulty was experi- 
enced in the collection of the rents. Tenants were continu- 
ally in arrear, and the Council were ever and anon passing- 
resolutions to send them threatening letters. The property 
was in reality of little value to the town, and, after years of 
continual annoyance, they resolved, in 1857, to build a farm- 
steading, and let the whole as one farm for fifteen years, 
with the same reservation of common as formerly. It was set 
up at 100, and let at 142. An even higher rent was 
obtained next lease, but, on the expiry of this second term, a 
considerable reduction of rent had to be submitted to, a 
period of severe agricultural depression and a succession of 
bad seasons having set in ; and, even then, the tenant, after 
obtaining voluntary reductions from time to time, ultimately, 
with consent of the Council, surrendered his lease. The 
farm is now let at 112. Before the farm steading was built, 
an offer of 100 a year for the pasturage was made to the 
Council by a farmer, whose lands lay contiguous to the moor. 
If we take into account the enormous sum that has been 
spent on the farm, from first to last, on buildings, draining, 
fencing, &c., it is plain that, had the Council accepted the 
offer, they would have been more in pocket than by the 
course they followed. 

An examination of the burgh accounts from the year 1857, 

History of Sanquhar. 175 

when the steading was erected and the lands enclosed, till 
the present time, a period of 34 years, gives rather startling 
results of the land-owning of the Town Council. During 
that time the total revenue of the farm, including the 
game-rent, amounted to 5606 3s, and the expenditure was 
as follows: Building, 775 15s; draining, 750 Is; roads 
and dykes, 262 8s ; lime, &c., 58 10s ; general repairs, 
96 18s ; law, 79 ; imperial and local taxes, 581 2s ; 
minister's stipend, 725 9s ; miscellaneous, 87 11s, to which 
may be added the expense of boring for coal in 1873-4, 
108 15s lOd making a total of 3505 9s lOd, leaving a net 
balance of 2100 13s 2d, or 61 15s 7d per annum, as the 
actual value of the farm to the town during that period. 

In connection with the general administration of the 
Council during the last twent} r -three years, it may be stated 
that, apart altogether from the heavy law expenses incurred 
by the proving of the Tenor of the Charter, and in the litiga- 
tion with the Duke of Buccleuch over the Teind question 
and arrears of Feu-rents in 1860, to which more particular 
reference is made in the proper place, there has been spent 
during that period on petty litigation, arising out of various 
disputes, the sum of 427 8s 2d. 

A portion of the main lands, called "Larsbraes and others," 
with the coal, was, in the year 1806, let to Mr M'Nab, 
proprietor of the Holm, on a lease of 999 years, on payment 
of a slump sum of 50 for the coal, and 15s of annual rent 
for the land; and, subsequently, he obtained a lease of the 
same duration of the land overlooking the Holm house, and 
now occupied by the Holm plantation, on payment of another 
sum of 50, and an annual rent of 2 10s. Shortly there- 
after, a fresh proposal was made by Mr M'Nab to lease from 
the Council the coals in a portion of the Muir, and a lease of 
38 years was granted on certain conditions, one of which 
was, that the price of coal was not to exceed sixpence per 
load at the hill, unless the wages of the men were either 
raised or lowered, in which case the price was to rise or fall 

176 History of Sanquhar. 

in proportion, according to the determination of two neutral 
persons, appointed by the Council and Mr M'Nab. There 
are traces of these coal-workings to be seen in the plantation, 
but nothing of consequence was done, for the death of Mr 
M'Nab, in 1811, put a stop to operations, his leases being 
purchased by the Duke of Queensberry. At his death, 
M'Nab was owing the town 85 17s lid for coal lordship, 
but that was covered by a loan of 100 which the town had 
from him. 

The Coal, in the main portion of the Muir lands, had been 
worked before M'Nab's time, and these works were continued 
successfully down to the year 1822, and even much later. 
In a minute of 1790, a Robert Sandilands is mentioned as 
the owner of coal works on the Muir. He resided at Knowe- 
head. The first reference we havo in the burgh's accounts 
to mining for coal is to be found in the year 1792, when 
" The Magistrates and Town Council, being in Council assem- 
bled, and taking into consideration that the inhabitants in 
this Burgh labour under a great disadvantage from the 
present scarcity of coal, are resolved, in order to supply the 
present need, that coals be raised out of the common land 
belonging to said burgh ; therefore come to the resolution of 
setting the sinking of a pit to some person, and appoint Mi- 
Barker and Bailie M'Math to treat first for the sinking of 
said Pit with any person who will take the doing of the 
same ; also appoint said two persons to survey the ground in 
question to see what place will be most convenient for sink- 
ing said Pit, and likewise report their opinion upon every 
measure that may be most conducive and of the greatest 
advantage for supplying the present inhabitants during said 
scarcity." Small sums appear as having been paid to work- 
men at the coal works. A James Henderson is paid 4 10s 
" towards a pitt," 14s 9d is entered for wood for the coal- 
heugh, Is 6d for mending a creel, and 2s 6d for two pounds 
powder, evidently for blasting, while a man is paid 24s for 
16 shifts at the coal pit. The accounts, however, are very 

History of Sanquhar. 177 

loosely kept, and it is difficult to trace the progress of the 
works, but, early in the present century, we have revealed to 
us facts which open our eyes, and shew the mineral wealth 
of the town's property, and the revenue the princely 
revenue for so small a place which the town reaped, 
in the period down to 1822, from the mining operations. 
The minerals were let to tacksmen, though their names, 
cui-iously enough, do not appear in the minutes, nor the 
terms or conditions on which they worked. The accounts, 
however, shew that they paid their rents by a lordship on 
the output. The amount received from this source was in 
1807, 244; in 1814, 710 ; in 1816, 504; in 1817, 343 ; 
in 1820, 100 ; in 1821, 93 ; and in 1822, 75, shewing a 
grand total in these sixteen years of 2069, besides sums 
received from M'Nab in 1806 of 150. What became of 
this large sum ? is the question that will start to the lips of 
the reader. It is impossible to say what became of it. The 
two sums first received from M'Nab of 50 and 100 are 
noted as " paid to Provost Otto," for what reason does not 
appear, nor is there any evidence of its ever having been 
repaid ; while, in the years during which these enormous 
sums were being received, we cannot observe that any great 
amount was spent in works of public utility. The accounts are 
bristling with payments of sums to quite a number of people, 
some of whose names appear rather frequently. The entries 
are brief, and convey no explanation, thus " Paid to so-and- 
so," and the sum. Perhaps the key to the whole mystery is 
to be found in one^candid entry "Paid for Election Enter- 
tainment, 30 10s 6d." How suggestive this, and tending 
to lend an air of probability to the otherwise almost incredible 
stories that are still handed down, that this was a period 
during which the funds of the town were plundered by the 
Council and their confederates in the most unblushing 
manner, while the voice of conscience was drowned in the 
ever-recurring carousals in which they indulged. However 
it be, it is patent that the money went as it came, and that 


178 History of Sanquhar. 

the town was, in the end, not a penny the richer for all the 
wealth with which it had been endowed by royal hands. 
The only redeeming feature of this corrupt time is the fact 
that, in 1812, a year of great scarcity, the Council supplied 
oatmeal to the inhabitants at a price somewhat lower than 
cost. The price of the meal ranged from 4s 6d to 7s per 
stone, and was retailed at a loss of from 3d to Is per stone. 
The total sum spent in this way was 73 Os 6d. In 1813 
they spent in the same way 20 19s lOd. 

It was in this period, too, that the idea of dividing the muir- 
land was first broached. " The Council resolve that an applica- 
tion should be made to the principal Heritors holding rights 
of Servitude over the Muir for their concurrence in having a 
division of the Muir, which, in its present state, is of little 
or no value either to the Heritors or to the Town;" and it is 
noted later that "a letter from the Provost was read, mention- 
ing that he was of opinion that the Muir ought to be divided 
entirely that is, that those parts sold and feued off by the 
Town ought to be included in the division and that one-half 
of the Muir, estimated according to the value of the land, 
ought to be set apart for the Town, and the remaining half 
for the Heritors." In an ordinary case, one would be inclined 
to say that the Council were good judges of what was best in 
the town's interest, but we have already had a measure of 
their concern about that, and, when we bear in mind that the 
Provost was the redoubtable Major Crichton, the Chamber- 
lain of the youthful Duke of Buccleuch, and consider how 
readily such councillors would fall in with his desires, the 
proposal at once assumes quite a different aspect. To their 
credit, however, be it said that the suggestion contained in 
the Provost's letter (who possibly thought it safer to write 
than to come to the town at that time) that the lands already 
sold or feued, in virtue of their undoubted rights, should be 
included in the division, was too barefaced even for them. 
They agreed to the division, but rejected this addition by the 
Provost. The project, however, fell through, and no further 

History of Sanquhar. 179 

notice of it appears in the minutes. In all likelihood, the 
Council were terrified at the outburst of popular indignation 
which their scheme evoked. That there was such an out- 
burst we cannot doubt, for the echoes of it are audible to this 
day from the lips of the older inhabitants. It will be seen 
that the division was ultimately carried out in the year 
1830 a very opportune time for the Heritors, as they were 
called. The voice of popular opinion was making itself 
heard. Reform was in the air. It was plain to any shrewd 
observer of the course of events, and the state of public feel- 
ing, that the time was rapidly approaching when the present 
state of municipal government, or rather misgovernment, 
would no longer be endured, and the management of burghs 
would pass into the hands of those who would be, in some 
degree, representative of the people, and liable to be called to 
account for the discharge of the trust committed to them. 
It was now or never, then, with the holders of power. Their 
time was short, and they must make the best use of it. 
Major Crichton still occupied the civic chair, and, under his 
auspices, the scheme was carrie'd through. It may be said 
that the fact that the Court of Session, a body that has 
always, happily, been unsuspected of corruption, granted 
Decree of Division, proves that the claims of the Heritors 
were legal. But law is one thing and justice sometimes 
another thing, and while the Court could not inquire into 
the origin of these rights of the Heritors, but only take 
matters as they found them, the inhabitants knew full well 
how they had at first been acquired. In any case, it woidd 
have been a formidable business for the Heritors to have 
attempted, in the face of an opposing Council, backed up by 
an indignant community, to parcel out the muir-lands as 
they did; but, with a pliant Corporation, it was all plain sail- 
ing; and so the town lost, at one fell swoop, the half of its 
patrimony. The only excuse for dwelling at such length on 
this subject is the fact that there is perhaps nothing, during 
the whole municipal history of the town, which has evoked 

180 History of Sa nquhai : 

so much popular feeling as the division of the muir. It is 
not so long, indeed, since a strong disposition was shewn to 
test the legality of the transaction, and it was only when the 
Council had obtained the advice of the best legal authority 
of the day that they felt compelled, though reluctantly, to 
admit that the property was gone beyond recall. Though 
the land was gone, it was shewn, by the action relative to the 
quarrying of stones for the Free Church in 1843, that the 
Town Council were still superiors, and therefore the owners 
of the minerals beneath the surface. In 1867, the question 
was raised whether they were not likewise entitled to the 
game on the divided lands. It was proposed to the holders 
to take jointly the opinion of Counsel on the point. This 
proposal was declined, whereupon the Council resolved to 
roup the game, which was done next year. The tenant was 
chary of exercising the right, and, as the Council were dis- 
inclined to bind themselves to protect him against all risks, 
and he was warned by the Heritors that he would be prose- 
cuted if he dared to trespass on their lands, the right was 
never freely exercised, nor was the rent paid. The attempt 
to establish the claim was a faint and half-hearted one, and 
came to nothing. 

From the Union, and down to the passing of the Reform 
Act of 1832, the election of a Member of Parliament for 
the District of Burghs Dumfries, Annan, Kirkcudbright, 
Sanquhar, and Lochmaben was in the hands of the Town 
Councils of the respective burghs, and was carried through 
in the following manner : The Writ for the Election having 
issued from his Majesty's Court of Chancery to the Sheriff 
of the County, notice was sent by the Sheriff to each 
Town Council, requiring them to " meet and convene within 
their ordinary Council house, or place where they use to meet 
in Council, with all Convenient Dispatch, and there to Choice 
a Commissioner for the Burgh, in such manner as they were 
in use to Choice a Commissioner to Represent them in the 
Parliament of Scotland, to meet with the Commissioners of 

History of Sanquhar. 181 

the other Burrows," on a day fixed by the Sheriff, betwixt 
the hours of ten in the morning and two in the afternoon, in 
the Burgh which was for the time the " present preceding 
burgh," the election being held, according to a system of 
regular rotation, each burgh taking that place in succession. 
The Commissioner so appointed is constantly described in the 
minute of appointment as "a Man fearing God, of the true 
Protestant Religion publickly professit and authorised by 
the laws of the Kingdom, without suspicion to the contrair, 
Expert in the Common affairs of the Burrows, a Burgess and 
Inhabitant within this Burgh, bearing all portable charges 
with his Neighbours and a part of the public Burdens, and 
who can lose and win in all their Affairs." 

The manner of the appointment of the Burgh's commis- 
sioner was this : The Provost, on receipt of the Notice from 
the Sheriff, instantly called a meeting of the Council by sending 
round the officer to each member. When the Council had 
assembled, the Provost reported the receipt of the Precept of 
the Sheriff (giving the very hour of its coming to hand by 
courier), and setting forth the nature of said Precept, viz. : 
" That every royal Borough of the said shire should freely 
and Indifferently cause to be elected one Commissioner to 
Elect one Burgess of the most discreet and sufficient of the 
Class or District." The Acts of Parliament regulating such 
Elections, and Acts relating to Bribery and Corruption, were 
then read over in the hearing of the Council. The two 
officers were then called in, and testified that the whole 
members of the Council had been summoned to that meeting, 
whereupon the Council fixed the time and place for appoint- 
ment of their Commissioner. At this second meeting the 
Oath for Town Clerks, prescribed by the Act of the 16th 
year of Geo. II., was first administered to the Clerk by the 
Provost, and then the whole members of Council " having 
qualified themselves by their severally taking and subscribing 
the Oath of Allegiance to His Majesty the King, subscribing 
the Assurance, and taking and signing the Oath of Abjura- 

182 History of Sanquhar. 

tion," proceeded to the Election of their Commissioner. The 
Oath taken by the Clerk ran as follows : 

"I do solemnly swear that I have not directly or indirectly, by way of 
loan or other device whatsoever, received any sum or sums of money, office, 
place or employment, gratuity or reward, or any bond, bill, note, or any 
promise of any sum or sums of money, office, place, employment, or 
gratuity whatsoever, either by myself, or any other to my use or benefit 
or advantage, to make out any commission for a Commissioner for choosing 
a Burgess ; and that I will duly make out a commission to the Commis- 
sioner who shall be chosen by the majority of the Town Council assembled, 
and to no other person. So help me God." 

In those times when the whole system of government was 
honeycombed with corruption, a seat in Parliament was 
eagerly coveted by those who were much less concerned 
about the commonweal than about their own personal 
aggrandisement. Innumerable offices and appointments 
were in the gift of Members of Parliament, and afforded the 
opportunity of serving not only their own interests, but those 
of their friends and followers. Honourable and patriotic 
men there were, no doubt, among them, but, even upon those, 
the loose moral ideas and usages of their time had their own 
effect, and in public affairs they would lend themselves to 
practices which they would have scorned in their private and 
business relations. What was true in this respect of them 
was emphatically so in the case of the bodies the Town 
Councils of the burghs who possessed the privilege of their 
election. Lower down in the social scale, though persons of 
importance in their own little spheres, they had no conscien- 
tious scruples in imitating the manners of their " betters ; " 
and so we find that in connection with this, one of the most 
important public functions with which they were entrusted, 
the Town Councils of small burghs were perfect hotbeds of 
corruption and intrigue, and stories are still told of how votes 
were bought and sold in the most open and unblushing 
manner. As an instance of this kind, it is said that the vote 
of the burgh's commissioner was, on one occasion, secured by 
means of a little bartering transaction whereby he, being a 

Histwy of Sanqufiar. 183 

clothier, received, in exchange for a grey plaid, the title deeds 
of the principal inn in the town. If they had not the fear of 
God, still less had they the fear of man before their eyes. 
The constitution and manner of election of Town Councils 
rendered them perfectly irresponsible. As has been said, 
they were self-elected bodies, having the right of filling up 
by nomination such vacancies as might occur from time 
to time. Clique and party therefore reigned supreme, and 
care was taken that none were admitted but such as would 
be willing to work with the dominant party, prove facile 
instruments in cany ing out their self-seeking policy, and 
take a share in the general plunder. Their position was 
secure, and they could afford to snap their fingers in the face 
of public opinion. It is true that, along with the Council in 
the appointment of their Commissioner to vote in the election 
of the burgh Member of Parliament, were associated the 
Deacons of the Trades the masons and joiners, smiths, 
weavers, tailors, and shoemakers representative in a sense, 
but powerless to control the general body of the Council. 
The election of the Member by the Commissioners was 
held in each of the five burghs in succession, and, 
occurring only at considerable intervals, one can imagine 
what a stir would be created in the returning burgh for the 
time. Such was the vicious system that prevailed down to 
1832, when it was swept away by the Act for the Reform of 
Municipal Corporations, under which the Council is now 
elected by the votes of duly qualified citizens. 

The Election of a Town Council was held, as a rule, 
annually about the month of September or October, and 
vacancies occurring during the year were filled up at the 
time of their occurrence. The Provost and all office-bearers, 
together with the Town-Clerk and officer or officers (for 
there were frequently two of these), held office only for one 
year, and their formal appointment was recorded at every 
annual election. The number of councillors generally chosen 
was seventeen. We find that, though the election was 

184 History of Sanquhar. 

generally, it was not uniformly, held at the time stated ; and, 
further, it would appear that the Burgh down to 1734 had 
no regular Sett or Constitution, a state of things which pre- 
vailed in many burghs, and which induced the Convention 
of Royal Burrows in 1708 to pass the following Act : 

' ' In the general Convention of the Royal Burrows holden at the Burgh 
of Edinburgh upon the fifteen day of Jully one thousand seven hundred 
and eight years by the Commissioners therein conveened, The Which Day, 
the Convention finding by Experience that nothing doth Great more 
trouble to them than Irregularities and Abusses committed by particular 
Burghs in Electing their Magistrats and Town Council Contrary to their 
Sett and Antient Custom, Therefore the Convention to obviat this Incon- 
veniency in time coming Statuted and appointed that each Royal Burgh 
within this kingdom send up their Sett to the Clerks of the Burrows to be 
recorded in a particular Book to be keeped for that very purpose, To the 
End any Question about their rexive Setts may be quickly discust upon 
producing the sd Book and that betwixt and the next Convention, Certifie- 
ing Such as shall fail therein they shall be fined by the next Convention in 
the sum of Two hundred pound Scots money, But in regard the Burgh of 
Sanquhar had no Sett, the Convention by their Sixth Act of the Date the 
eight day of July one thousand seven hundred and thirteen years appointed 
the Commissioners for the Burghs of Dumfries Kirkcudbright Annan and 
Lochmaben or any two of them to make a Sett for the said Burgh and 
report to the next Convention, In obedience to which appointment the 
Commissioners before named gave in a Sett for the sd Burgh of Sanquhar, 
The Tenor Whereof Follows - 

" Whereas The last general Convention haveing recomended to the 
Commissioners of the Burghs of Dumfries, Kirkcudbright, Annan, and 
Lochmaben to assertain a Sett for the Burgh of Sanquhar. And they 
haveing conform to that Recomendation considered duly the Charters and 
Custom of the said Burgh, They were of opinion that for all Time hereafter, 
Their Sett should be that they shall have a Provost, three Baillies Dean of 
Guild and Thesaurer with eleven Councelours making in all seventeen, 
And that these shall be of Heretors Merchants or Tradesmen Burgesses 
Residenters within the said Burgh, and that these nor any of them shall 
Continue longer than for one year unless they be Choiced again, and at 
least that there be four new Couucelours yearly and that the old Council 
shall still Choise the new annually at Michaelmas if it fall on a Munday, 
If other ways then the first Munday after Michaelmas, In witness 
whereof, &c. 

' ' Extracted upon this and the preceeding page forth of the Records 
of the Royal Burrows of Scotland by me George Home of Kells 
general Clerk to the Burrows Sic subscribitur : George Home. " 

Note. The sum paid by a Burgess, on his admission, was called his 

History of Sanquhar. 185 

Composition, and was a variable sum according to his station in life, 
ranging from one pound to twelve pound Scots, but, towards the close of 
last century, the charge became more regular, being five shillings sterling 
for one who was the son of a Burgess, or who was married to a Burgess's 
daughter, and a guinea for any one who did not occupy that privileged 
position. In many instances, the fee was remitted out of consideration of 
valuable services rendered to the Burgh by the newly-elected burgess. 

In the year 1740, the Town Council, anxious probably to 
rid themselves, if possible, of the continuous domination of 
the Crichtons, by one or other of whom the provostship 
appeared likely to be monopolised, passed an Act that 
" neither Provost nor Dean of Guild shall continue longer 
than for two years in the same station, and that one of the 
three Bailies shall be changed yearly," but, in 1746, they 
rescinded this resolution, rinding that ' : the Sett, as estab- 
lished by the Royal Burrows, ought and only can be the 
Rule in the matter," and the Crichtons remained in posses- 
sion of the chair from 1718 (however long before that date) 
to 1772. 

In the year 1732, there began a practice of taking, in 
addition to the oath defideli administratione officii and the 
ordinary Oath of Allegiance to the King, at the time of the 
annual election of Council, a special oath of a more explicit 
and comprehensive character, containing acknowledgment 
and abjuration with reference to the claims of the Stuarts to 
the throne of the realm. The taking of this oath by the 
Council was an annual observance down to the year 1860. 
The following was the form of oath : 

' ' I Undersubscriver do truly and sincerely acknowledge, profess, testify, 
and declare in my Conscience before God and the World that our Sovereign 
Lord King George the Second is lawfull and rightfull King of Great 
Britain and all others his Majesties dominions thereunto belonging, And I 
do solemnly and sincerely Declare that I do believe in my Conscience that 
the person pretended to be Prince of Wales dureing the life -of the late 
King James and since his decease pretending to be and takeing upon himself 
the style and title of the King of England by the name of James the third 
or of Scotland by the name of James the eight or the style and title of King 
of Great Brittain, hath not any right or title whatsoever to the Crown of 
the Realm or any other the Dominion thereunto belonging, And I do 


186 History of SanqiiJiar. 

renounce refuse and abjure any Allegiance or obedience to him, and I do 
swear that I will bear faithfull and true allegiance to his Majesty King 
George the Second and him will defend to the utmost of my power against 
all Treasons and traitorous Conspiracies and attempts whatsomever or 
which shall be made against his person and Government, And I will do my 
utmost Endeavour to disclose and make known to his Majesty and his 
Successors all Treason and traitorous Conspiracies which I shall know to 
be against him or any of them, And I do faithfully promise to the utmost 
of my power to Support, Maintain and Defend the succession of the Crown 
in the Heirs of the Body of the late Princess Sophia, Electoress and 
Dutches of Hanover being Protestants against him the said James and all 
other persons qtsoever and all these things I do plainly and sincerely 
acknowledge and Swear according to the Express words by me spoken and 
accordingly to the plain Commonsense and understanding of the same 
words without any Equivocation Mental Evation or Secret reservation 
whatsoever and I do make this Recognition Acknowledgment Abjuration 
Renounciation and Promise heartily willingly and truly. So help me God." 

When this oath was dispensed with in 1860, a new one for 
Councillors was substituted. 

The first list of the Councillors in the Minute Book con- 
tains the names of twenty-one persons, but we presume the 
four in excess of the number given as the constitution of the 
Council to have been the deacons of incorporated trades, who 
are so enumerated and designed regularly thereafter along 
with the Council. The constitution, as fixed by the Con- 
vention, continued to be the constitution of the Council down 
to the year 1852, when, by the Act 15 and 16 Viet., cap. 32, 
it was altered, one bailie and seven councillors being struck 
off, thus reducing the total number to nine, at which it now 
stands. The qualification of councillors remains very much 
as it was, they requiring to reside or be traders within the 
bounds of the burgh. The ancient system of burgesses that 
is, those who had purchased the freedom of trading in the 
burgh, with all the privileges thereto belonging passed 
away with the Reform Act of 1832, but the form is still 
so far observed in connection with the election of town 
councillors, for each person so appointed must take the 
oath, and be admitted a burgess of the burgh, before taking 
the oath de fideli administratione officii. Although 

Uisto ry of Sa i iquhar. 187 

obviously it was intended that the Council should be 
made up of those who were bona, fide inhabitants of the 
burgh, we find that a practice sprang up of electing persons 
who might have an interest, through the possession of pro- 
perty, in the town, and who came under the designation of 
" heretors," but possessed no other qualification. From 
the list which is printed in the Appendix, it will be seen that 
persons of high distinction such as, the Duke of Queens- 
berry, Sir Thomas Kirkpatrick of Cioseburn, Lord Elliock, 
James Fergusson of Craigdarroch, the Earl of Dalkeith, the 
Marquis of Queensberry, James M'Turk of Steuhouse, 
J. Macalpine Leny of Dalswinton, John Maxwell of Ter- 
raughtie, and other territorial magnates had seats at 
the Council, as well as numerous farmers in the neigh- 
bourhood William Mackay, Castlemains; William John- 
stone, Clackleith ; William Aird, Kelloside ; Robert Lorimer, 
Gateside ; William Thomson, Auchengruith ; William 
Wilson, Butknowe, &c. It might, at first sight, appear 
that such an appointment would be beneath the notice 
of noblemen and gentlemen, many of whom had no direct 
interest in the town, but the secret of that interest may 
be found in the power possessed by the Town Council 
in the election of a Member of Parliament. The appoint- 
ment of some of them was doubtless meant as a personal 
compliment, and was bestowed with an eye to favours to be 
received in return. In the case of several of these non- 
resident councillors, their connection was merely nominal. 
The Duke of Queensberry 's lasted only for a year, and the 
attendance of several others was very sparing ; indeed, both the 
Marquis of Queensberry and Lord Dalkeith resigned on the 
ground that their other engagements prevented them from a 
discharge of the duties, but several did give a fairly regular 
attendance, and continued in office for years. This was the 
case with Lord Elliock, who, however, though not resident in 
the burgh, was a near neighbour ; but the greatest influence 
exercised by any councillor of this class was by Major Crichton, 

188 History of Sanquhar. 

Chamberlain to the Duke of Buccleuch, during his seven- 
teen years' provostship, from 1815 to 1832. Major Crichton 
was a great man in his day, and his name is still frequently 
referred to by the older people in the district, for the authority 
and influence which he wielded over the whole of Upper 
Nithsdale, by reason of his commanding business talents- 
The presence of such a man at the council board of the town 
might, therefore, have been of inestimable value but for the 
natural leaning which he evidently had to study, first of all, 
the interests of his master, when these, as occasionally hap- 
pened, came into conflict with those of the town. An 
example of this is seen in the controversy that arose over 
the division of the Muir, where the councillor was lost in 
the factor. 

Not alone in this way were the Council brought into touch 
with the great ones of the earth. They were possessed of 
the patronage of two appointments which were highly 
esteemed and much sought after those of Commissioner to 
the Convention of Royal Burghs and of Commissioner to the 
General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. 

The Commission to the Convention of Burghs was most 
frequently conferred on the Provost (see Appendix), but occa- 
sionally on a stranger. For several years after 1718, the 
appointment was held by Mr George Irving of Newton, a 
man evidently of great ability, to whom reference is more 
fully made elsewhere. The Hon. Patrick Boyle of Shewalton, 
a lord of Session, sat for the burgh in 1747 ; the Clerks of 
Drumcrieff between 1763 and 1769 ; and Sir William John- 
stone Hope, Bart., K.C.B., in 1816. 

The list of Commissioners to the General Assembly 
embraces several names of distinction the above Mr Irving 
and the above Patrick Boyle ; Charles Erskine of Barjarg, 
Solicitor-General for Scotland ; George Jardine, Professor of 
Logic in Glasgow University ; Archibald Arthur, Professor 
of Moral Philosophy there ; Sheriff Veitch of Elliock. The 
last-named had the honour conferred upon him unsolicited, 

History of Sanquhar. 189 

the Council being moved thereto solely by a consideration of 
his unblemished reputation as a judge, and the general 
esteem in which he was held as one of the landed gentry of 
the neighbourhood. The honour thus freely conferred was 
continued without interruption for 22 years, from 1846 to 
1867. The appointment of a commissioner to the Assembly 
had been made, up to this time, almost without fail, but the 
majority of the Council being now dissenters, in whom the 
odium theologicum was rather strongly developed, could riot 
reconcile it to their conscience to have anything to do with 
the Kirk, even by such an appointment. The re-appoint- 
ment of Sheriff Veitch was opposed, and the name of one 
was substituted who they knew was not likely to attend ; but 
when the matter next came up, they were not content to 
make a sham appointment of this sort, but declined to make 
any appointment whatever. The nomination continued 
vacant till 1884, when they agreed, somewhat reluctantly, to 
appoint the Rev. William Hastie, " the sole reason," so the 
minute runs, "for allowing this appointment is that, Mr 
Hastie being a native of the parish, they are desirous of 
giving him the opportunity of vindicating himself in the 
charges made against him." These charges were made by 
the Foreign Mission Committee of the Church in connection 
with his work as Principal of the College at Calcutta. 

The Commissioner appointed by the Town Council to the 
General Assembly was obliged to take and subscribe the 
following oath : 

"I do sincerely own and declare the Confession of Faith approven by 
former General Assemblies of this Church, and ratified by Law in the year 
1690, to be the Confession of my Faith, and that I own the Doctrine 
therein contained to be true Doctrine, which I will constantly adhere to, 
as likeways that I own and acknowledge Presbyterian Church government 
of this Church now settled by Law, by Kirk Sessions, Presbyteries, 
Provintial Synods, and General Assemblies to be the only Government of 
this Church, and that I Submitt thereto, Concur therewith, and never 
Endeavour directly or indirectly the Prejudice or Subversion thereof, 
And that I shall observe uniformity of Worship, And of the Administration 
of all publick ordinances within this Church, as the same are at present 
performed and allowed." 

190 History of Sanqukar. 


In connection with the Town Council there was an official 
called the Dean of Guild, who acted in conjunction with a 
court of his own, not necessarily of councillors, but of skilled 
men to assist him in the discharge of his duties, and in 
determining the matters that came under his jurisdiction. 
Trade Guilds were of ancient origin ; they were anterior to, 
and laid the foundation of municipal government. The 
Dean of Guild derives his appointment in different ways in 
different burghs. In large burghs, such as Edinburgh and 
Glasgow, he is appointed still by the incorporated trades, and 
has a seat at the Town Council ex-officio, but in small burghs 
he is, and always appears to have been, a councillor appointed 
to the office. The office at one time was regarded as one of 
honour and consequence, for we find that, in most cases, two 
persons were " listed," as it was called, for the provostship, 
who thereupon withdrew from the meeting. When the 
provost had been appointed, they were called in, and the 
office of Dean of Guild was conferred upon the unsuccessful 
candidate for the provostship, by whom it was uniformly 
accepted, so that it would appear that this official was 
regarded as next in dignity to the provost. He was, as we 
have said, assisted by a certain number of capable men, 
appointed by himself, and they formed the Dean of Guild 
Court, of which he was the head. The powers and duties of 
this court were of some importance at one time. Among 
others, they had the oversight of weights and measures and 
other matters relating to trade, and likewise had the power 
of settling disputes as to the boundaries of property, and 
were responsible to see that no encroachment took place by 
building along the line of the -streets. In later times, the 
constitution and working of this court have become some- 
what obscured in the smaller burghs. A dispute arose in 
the year 1880, when the Dean asked the advice of the 
Council with regard to "a certain house at Corseburn, which 

History of Sanquhar. 191 

jutted out on the street in an unseemly manner, and was at 
present unroofed and being raised in the walls." He was 
defeated in an action of interdict raised in the Sheriff Court, 
and now the standing of the Dean and his Court is in greater 
doubt than ever. In the exercise of his powers in deter- 
mining disputes as to boundaries of property, there were 
certain officers of court called " birleymen " (mentioned in 
1732), who appear to have been petty officers appointed by 
the Council to see the orders of the Uean of Guild Court 
given effect to. In those days, when there were no regular 
fences, the boundaries were marked by large stones called 
pitt-stones, and, in the case quoted, it is said that " pitt 
stones are now sett and Coals laid below the same." The 
reason of laying coals below the pitt or boundary stones was 
probably for the purpose of identification. Before the land 
had been improved, boulders were not uncommon, and, if any 
dispute arose as to which were the pitt stones, the coal under- 
neath would determine the point. These Birleymen had to 
give their " solemn oaths to act faithfully therein according 
to their knowledge." 


An important revenue was derived by burghs in the olden 
time, and down to a very recent period, from the exaction of 
petty customs upon goods brought into or passing out of the 
burgh. The Table of Customs in this burgh was as follows 

For each score of Horses or Mares, old or young Thirteen shillings 

four pennies Scots money. 
For each score of Black Cattle, old or young Thirteen shillings four 

pennies Scots. 

For each score of Sheep or Lambs Three shillings four pennies Scots. 
For each Corded Pack of Goods Two shillings money foresaid. 
For each load of Meal or other kind whatsoever brought into the 

Mercat for sale or carried by the Burgh- One shilling money 


For each Merchant Stand, covered Two shillings money foresaid. 
For each Web of Cloth of whatsoever kind Four pennies money 

For each Spaniol of Worsted of Yarn, Linen or Woollen Four pennies 

money foresaid. 

192 History of Sanquhar. 

For each Cart Load of Wine, Brandy, or other goods Four shillings 

money foresaid. 

For each Pack of Wool One shilling money foresaid. 
For each Load of Beer or Malt imported into the Burgh One shilling 

money foresaid. 

By an ordinance of 1831, custom was not to be leviable on 
Milk, nor on loads of less than one hundredweight. This 
latter provision led, on one occasion, to an amusing scene. 
A customer had just had a cwt. of salt put on his cart at Mr 
Halliday's shop. The town officer, old James Black, always 
on the outlook, pounced upon him for custom. The carter 
quietly opened the bag, and seized a handful of the salt, 
which he scattered on the street. "There," said he, "it's not 
a hundredweight noo." 

Note, A Burgess was only charged half dues, and Burgesses residing in 
the Newtown, which is outside the royalty, were accorded the same 
privilege, provided they would serve as constables within the burgh when 

There were also dues for the weighing of goods at the 
Trone, which was erected in 1740, under the following 
regulations : 

Each Pack of Wool brought to the Burgh or to the Trone to be 

weighted One shilling Scots. 
Each Stone of Wool, Butter, Cheese, Tallow, Lint, Hemp, Tow or 

Leather, or other goods sold at the Trone One shilling Scots. 

A Burgess was only charged half dues on the above. 

Each pound weight of any of the said goods Two pennies Scots, 
whether Burgess or not. 

The tacksman had to give attendance at the Trone on 
Tuesday and Friday weekly, and at all other times when 
called. The revenue amounted to about 3 per annum. 

Further, Meal brought in for sale had to be brought to the 
Meal Market, where certain dues were also exacted. These 
Market Dues were let, but did not bring a large sum only 
about two guineas a year. 

The Dung on the street was also let, the tacksman being 
bound to remove it twice a week. It yielded a trifling sum. 

A revenue, amounting on the average to about 13 per 

History of Sanquhar. 193 

annum, was also realised from Stent and Teind, payable by 
the heritors who held the grassum of the lands, which were 
subsequently alienated from the town at the division of the 

Sums of money, being the Fees of admission of Burgesses, 
were also continually falling into the town's treasury. 
These fees varied, as already stated, from a guinea to five 
shillings, but, in a few cases of large traders, such as John 
Halliday, the fee was two guineas. 

There were also Fees or Fines exacted from a class of 
traders called Stallangers, that is, Stallholders, who, not 
being Burgesses or Freemen, set up stalls at the market for 
the sale of goods. Latterly they were allowed by the Cor- 
poration, on payment of a certain fee, to trade in the town 
for a year, but this payment had to be repeated, and they 
had none of the other privileges of a burgess. 

These, together with the rents of small patches of land, 
formed the minor branches of income, the bulk of which was 
derived from the lands belonging to the burgh, lordship on 
minerals a very lucrative source, as we elsewhere see and 
the petty customs. The lands and minerals have already 
been dealt with, and the history of the Customs will now be 
traced. The Customs were, for a considerable time, let by 
public roup, and were farmed by all sorts of people the 
Provost sometimes, or a trader of the town. Caution had to 
be found for the rent, and this security was not unnecessary, 
for occasionally the cautioner had to be called upon. In par- 
ticular years, however, the tacksman was allowed a rebate, 
owing to the depression of trade, which of course affected 
traffic and customs to a very considerable extent. They 
were let in 1727 at Sixty-six pounds Scots. During the 
first half of the present century, they varied from 18 18s to 
35 os averaging 27. In the year 1850, the Magistrates, 
not being able to obtain a satisfactory bid at the annual let 
of the Customs, resolved to collect them by some person to 
be employed for that purpose. This arrangement did not 


194 History of SanquJt&r. 

work well, and in 1852 they were again exposed to let, but, 
no offer being forthcoming, the Council resolved to employ 
their own officer in their collection. 

On the opening of the railway in 1850, a question was at 
once raised as to the liability of the railway company to pay 
custom on goods carried by them through the burgh. The 
company demanded a sight of the charter, and a copy was 
sent them, and a deputation of the Council went to Glasgow 
to discuss the matter with the Directors. The latter offered 
an annual sum of 35, but the Council stood out for 70. 
It was ultimately adjusted at 40, which was increased after 
five years to 45. Meanwhile the question of liability was 
being tried by an action between the Edinburgh and Glasgow 
Railway Company and the Burgh of Linlithgow, which 
dragged its weary length along, and was only decided in the 
House of Lords in 1859. The decision was in favour of the 
railway company. The contract for a payment of 45 per 
annum for Jive years, entered into in 1857 between the 
Glasgow and South- Western Company and the town, was 
still running, but the company at once gave notice that, in 
face of the Liulithgow decision, they would pay no longer. 
The Council attempted to hold them to the contract, but in 
vain, and this important source of revenue was lost. Though 
the railway company was thus freed from liability in custom 
on goods carried along their line through the burgh, there was 
still the question of custom for, goods brought to the railway 
station, and delivered therefrom. The company, encouraged 
by the decision in the Linlithgow case, refused to pay this 
custom as well, and an action was raised by the Council, in 
which they were successful. A further action, in vindication 
of the town's rights had to be raised at Ayr in 1883, 
against Messrs Sanger, circus proprietors, who had passed 
through the burgh some days before, and refused to pay. 
In this action the Council were also successful, but Mr 
Sanger had ample revenge five years later, when, on pass- 
ing south through the burgh, and again refusing to pay, the 

History of Sanqiih ar. 195 

town officer, acting on instructions, seized one of the perform- 
ing horses. The incident occurred on a Sabbath day, and 
caused great excitement in the town. In regard to the 
merits of the question, however, a great and vital change 
had taken place, through the operation of a clause in the 
Roads and Bridges Act, which had been passed in 1878, and 
which clause, together with others, was only to come into 
force ten years after the passing of the Act that is to say, in 
1888. This clause made it appear at least doubtful whether 
the burghs were entitled any longer to exact through-custom. 
The attention of members of the Council had been drawn to 
the clause shortly after its coming'into force, and they were 
cautioned to satisfy themselves, lest their right should one 
day be challenged ; but the caution was disregarded, and Mr 
Sanger's refusal found them unprepared with legal advice. 
No doubt Mr Sanger had satisfied himself of his ground, and 
that accounted for the significantly quiet manner in which 
he allowed the officer to seize his valuable horse. The Town 
Council speedily found that they were wrong, and hastened 
to restore the horse and pay all necessary costs. Having 
made this reparation, they fondly hoped they had reached 
the end of the notable incident, but they were not to be so 
easily let off. Mr Sanger had been nursing his wrath since 
his prosecution in 1883, and now his chance had come. The 
Council had walked into the trap, and he would have his 
revenge. He raised an action of damages, and a process of 
" haggling " began. The Council, instead of making the best 
of a bad job and getting the matter closed, acted in a waver- 
ing, undecided fashion. They offered something less than 
Mr Sanger demanded, and meanwhile the law expenses were 
mounting up. Another higher offer was made, to be met 
by a higher claim, founded on the increased expense incurred 
by the pursuer, and so the miserable business went on till, at 
length, a deputation was appointed to meet Mr Sanger's 
agent, and effect a settlement somehow. The result was, the 
Council had to pay 50 damages, and the whole expense 

196 History of Sanquhar. 

incurred by them amounted to about 70. Thus ended what 
has been called the famous circus-horse case. 

The Table of Customs was now reduced to very small 
dimensions. All through-traffic, whether by road or rail, was 
free, and the through-customs derived from the railway 
company, and from droves of cattle and sheep, had been 
always the principal part. Now, all that remained was that 
derived from goods brought into the town to market or taken 
out for sale. A large part of the officer's time was taken up 
in watching for the opportunity of picking up twopence now 
and again. The question, therefore, became Was the game 
worth the candle ? and it was taken up, and became a burn- 
ing question both in the Council and outside. The Council 
were compelled to come to a decision by a notice from the 
railway company, in January, 1889, that they would no 
longer pay even on the goods delivered from the station. 
After negotiations, the company offered to refer the matter 
to eminent counsel. The Town Council proposed a friendly 
small debt action, which the company declined, and repeated 
their offer of arbitration. Discussion was carried on from 
meeting to meeting of the Council. After several months' 
wrangling, it was proposed to continue the collection of 
customs, but the proposal was defeated by an amendment 
counselling delay. It was brought up again at a meeting on 
17th May, when the opponents boldly met it with a resolu- 
tion " that the Council abolish the custom," which latter was 
adopted, and so the final end of this long and bitter contro- 
versy was at last reached. The question was argued both on 
the ground of principle and expediency. It was pointed out 
that the whole system of customs of this descinption was out 
of harmony with the spirit of the times was, in truth, a relic 
of a pre -reform age ; and certainly it was a striking spectacle 
to witness a council and a community, who make a boast of 
their Liberalism, clinging so tenaciously to ancient privilege, 
so foreign to the creed which they professed. But, apart 
from principle, the maintenance of these imposts was ques- 

History of Sanquhar. 197 

tionable upon economic grounds. The greater proportion of 
the amount realised would now be spent in the costs of 
collection. Their abolition would enable the Council to 
effect a saving in their officer's wages, and this was the view 
which prevailed, and which gave the death-blow to these old 
standing exactions. 

Having thus dealt with the Revenues of the Town Council, 
let us now turn to their powers and duties. 

The Magistrates were clothed with powers of civil and 
criminal jurisdiction. In civil matters, their powers corre- 
sponded very much with those now exercised by Justices of 
the Peace, and covered the minor class of business that now 
falls to the Sheriff. They had the granting of licences for the 
sale of intoxicating liquor in their hands ; a power of which 
they appear to have made free use, for we find that the num- 
ber of licensed houses in the year 1813 was 18 ; while those 
holding ale certificates alone, numbered 21. These licence 
holders were classified into vintners, change-keepers, innkeep- 
ers, or stablers. Their aid was likewise invoked in the 
recovery of small debts. In 1718, there is a minute that 
warrants were, at the instance of a creditor, granted by a 
bailie for the arrestmeut in the hands of a third party of funds 
belonging to his debtor. Their authority was further exercised 
in certain ways, which were quite conform to the ideas of 
the time, but to matters which now appear to us extra- 
ordinary. Thus, in the year 1728, "the Magistrates and 
Council considering the great straits and necessities that 
Masters and Labourers of the ground are driven and con- 
strained to by the fraud and malice of servants who refuse to 
be hired without great and extraordinary wages promised to 
them and cast themselves Loose knowing that the People 
who have necessary to do with Labour will be forced to hire 
them at daily and weekly wages, and such high rates as they 
please to the great harm of his Majesty's Leidges, And also 
the said Provost Baillies and Council considering that manv 

198 History of Sanquhar. 

such Loose and Idle People who ought to be at service have 
resorted to and are daily resorting to this Burgh For Remeed 
Whereof the said Provost Baillies and Council Do Hereby 
Discharge the haill Burgesses and Inhabitants within this 
Burgh and territories thereof from Setting Houses, giveing 
any Intertainment, Lodging, Succour or Relief to such Idle, 
Loose and Solitary men and women, without first acquainting 
the Provost Baillies and Council and getting allowance from 
them, therefore Certifieing the Contraveners that they shall 
"be lyable in a fine of ten merks Scots mone}^ for every 

They likewise exercised a censorship on public morals. In 
1727 we have this salutary enactment : " The Magistrates 
and Council ordaine and appoint that whatsomever person 
or persons, burgesses or inhabitants, within this brugh after 
the day and date shall be found guilty and convicted of open 
and publick scolding, railing, swearing on the public street or 
otherways abusing of their neighbours within house or other 
people strangers or any burgess or inhabitant within this 
brugh, And whatsomever person or persons forsaid shall be 
found guilty and convicted of habitual drinking, cursing and 
swearing, and shall then curse and abuse any of the Magis- 
trates, 4 Clerk, Councillors, Deacons of Craft or any other 
Burgess or tradesman, their families, or people that are 
strangers of good repute, he shall immediately after convic- 
tion be banished this burgh arid the territories thereof by 
Haile of Drum, and shall lose the privileges and liberties of 
the burgh." Similar provisions follow for the prevention of 
the harbouring of strangers, vagrants, and suspicious persons. 

Even so late as the year 1838, there is an ordinance of a 
similar kind, which would not be amiss were it enforced at 
the present day. " The Magistrates and Council instruct 
their officer, until he gets contrary orders, to prevent as much 
as possible groups of children, boys and girls, from collecting 
together about the corners of houses or on the public streets 
or lanes of the Burgh, and upon all occasions to disperse 

History of Sanqiihar. 199 

them when he finds them so collected, with the view of 
preventing them from troubling, annoying, and molesting 
the public at large, as has been much the case of late ; and 
in the event of any one of them refusing to disperse when 
desired, instruct the officer to bring them shewing such con- 
tumacy or caught in the commission of any act of molesta- 
tion before the Magistrates, or Provost, to be dealt with by 
Fine or Imprisonment as may be judged expedient." 

Their solicitude for the public welfare manifested itself 
not only with regard to the good manners of the inhabitants, 
but also to their comfort in even minute particulars, for, in 
1753, "Two shillings were given to James Kellock, officer, 
for expense of powder and lead or otherways shooting Dogs 
within the Burgh." 

Besides the powers which they possessed in these and 
other civil matters, the Magistrates also exercised a consider- 
able criminal jurisdiction. Courts were held as occasion 
required, and a burgh fiscal was an appointment held by one 
or other of the legal gentlemen in the place. Reference is 
made in a minute in 1838 to the fact that " Mr Robert 
Dryden, formerly writer in Sanquhar, who has for many years 
held the office of Burgh Fiscal, is now unable longer to 
discharge the duties of said office, James Whigham is 
appointed in his room, at a salary of Five pounds per 

The position and duties of the Burgh Officer are defined 
in the paragraph under that heading. Here, however, it 
may be stated that he was the jailer of the town, and served 
the warrants of the Magistrates connected with their whole 
civil and criminal jurisdiction. 

In addition, a body of constables was regularly appointed, 
who could be called upon, if necessary, for the maintenance of 
the public peace. They received batons of office, and were 
allowed a small fee for their services, their appointment being 
for six months. In 1815, there is a note that " the Con- 
stables resigned their Battons, as the term of their appoint- 

200 History of Sanquhar. 

ment was elapsed, and the Magistrates direct the Treasurer 
to pay to the said constables the sums formerly allowed to 
them." Seven persons, whose names are given, are then 
appointed in their room, who " being present, accepted of 
their offices, and gave their Oath defideli in common form." 

One of the chief duties of the Magistrates in this connec- 
tion was, of course, the preservation of good order within the 
burgh, for which they were responsible to the Crown, but 
the}' likewise dealt with ordinary police offences and kindred 
matters. As an example, we give the case of two men, in the 
year 1718, who are ordered, at the instance of James Kellock, 
Fiscal of Court, to appear " in ane court to be held within 
the Tolbooth of said burgh, for their fighting, strugling, 
batering or brusing ane another, and to swear by the Law 
of God." The punishment of theft was to stand in the Joggs 
(elsewhere described), and to undergo a term of imprisonment. 
A story is told of a woman, who was led through the town by 
the officer with a halter round her neck, and with a placard 
on her back, bearing the words " This is a thief." This 
latter mode of punishment was quite in accord with a 
system in vogue throughout the country, as we learn from 
the annals of that period. It certainly was rough and ready, 
but it had this recommendation, which all punishments 
should more or less have, it was calculated to have a deter- 
rent effect upon other offenders. 

The crime of poaching, too, came under the cognisance of 
the burgh authorities. One William Kirk, in the year 1719, 
a " fowler " in Sanquhar, " pleads guilty of spoiling His 
Grace the Duke of Queen sberry and Dover of his game, and 
is ordered to go to John Dalrymple of Waterside, his Grace's 
bailly, and satisfy him, and that under paine of one hundred 
merks Scots." Reference may also be made to the penalty 
attached to plucking, trampling, or otherwise destroying the 
Pease, which the Magistrates ordained should be grown by 
each heritor possessed of land on the Muir. 

The smuggling of brandy and foreign spirits seems to have 

History of Sanquhar. 201 

been practised in the burgh to some extent in last century, 
and the Provost, Bailies, Council, and Deacons of Trades, in 
1730, taking into consideration "the pernitious effects of the 
Clandestine Importation and open consumption of Brandy 
within this burgh and neighbourhood thereof, And appearing 
evidently to them that considerable sums of money are yearly 
expended for purchasing this unnecessary commodity, And 
being resolved for the good of this Burgh to take an Effectual 
Course for preventing and restraining such Courses for the 
time to come Do therefore statute and ordain That no person 
or persons within this burgh shall Import, Resett, Sell, or 
Retail Brandy of Foreign Spirits contrair to Law, Certifieing 
hereby the Contraveener or Contraveeners That they shall 
not only be and are hereby lyable to a Fyne of Five pound 
sterling for every such offence, But also Declared Incapable 
of bearing any publick office within the Burgh in time 

Such, in general, were the powers of criminal jurisdiction 
with which Magistrates in burghs were clothed, but, important 
though they were, they fell far short of those with which they 
were originally endowed. A reference to the Charter of the 
burgh shews that they could even inflict capital punishment, 
but it is not to be inferred from this that they were empowered 
to try prisoners charged with murder, for the death penalty 
was, in those days, and down to a much later period, incurred 
for such comparatively minor offences as forgery, sheep- 
stealing, theft, &c. 

The exercise of criminal jurisdiction by the Magistrates of 
Sanquhar ceased from the year 1838, when the Council 
resolved not to appoint a Burgh Fiscal. 


A duty imposed in early days on the Magistrates was the 
execution of the Brieves of Chancery (this is referred to in the 
Burgh Charter) in connection with questions of heirship and 
succession. The brief having been received was put into the 


202 History of Sanquhar. 

hands of the Town Officer, by whom proclamation was made 
at the Cross indicating its nature, and calling on all objectors 
to appear. Thereafter, it was remitted to a jury of fifteen, 
who, having chosen their Chancellor, instituted an inquest 
into the facts, examined, on oath, witnesses, the officer with 
regard to the due service of the brief, and persons who could 
speak from personal knowledge of the propinquity of the 
claimant to the deceased, whereupon the claimant's declara- 
tion was read, that the deceased had died " at the faith and 
peace of our Sovereign Lord the King, and that he was his 
nearest and lawful heir," and if no objector appeared, they 
pronounced their verdict, which was reported to the Magis- 
trates, by whom it was notified and forwarded to Chancery. 

Further, the Magistrates issued warnings to remove at the 
instance of landlords of house property. These warnings 
were served by the Town Officer, by marking, with a cross, 
the door of the person against whom the warrant had been 
granted. In the event of these warnings being disregarded, a 
court was held on the Term day, when warrants of ejectment 
were issued, which were executed in a summary manner. 
This custom is still in force. 

Elsewhere, it is stated that, in return for the exceptional 
privileges and immunities conferred upon Burghs, they were 
liable for contributions to the Crown for expenses in time of 
war, in days when there was no regular standing army, and 
for other purposes which have been specified. These contri- 
butions were mainly made by the Convention on behalf of the 
whole burghs, but each burgh was individually liable for 
certain contributions, which were raised by a Cess, correspond- 
ing to the modern word assessment, levied upon the Heritors 
within the Burgh. A Cess of this kind "for the King" was 
made in 1719, and repeatedly thereafter. 

The Burgh was also liable in its proportion of the school- 
master's salary, and this was frequently collected along with 
the Cess for the King. In the case above-mentioned, " the 
Council laid on Four Months' Cess to be uplifted out of the 

Histomj of Sanquhar. 203 

burgh from the Heritors, three to the King, and one to Mr 
John Hunter, schoolmaster." The appointment of school- 
master was in the hands of the Duke of Queensberry as the 
principal Heritor, but the Town Council exercised some 
influence in the matter. For example, in 1738, they made a 
representation to the Duke that " neither of the two John 
Hunters (the one a son of James Hunter in Brakenside and 
the other a son of Samuel Hunter in Tower) Recommended 
are their choice to be schoolmaster of Sanquhar, and a great 
part of the Council and Paroch declareing their regard for 
William M'George, late schoolmaster, and that they were 
satisfied he were restored to this office, they do humbly 
propose him." The result was that the. Duke's commis- 
sioners gracefully left the appointment of schoolmaster to the 
free choice of the Council, and M'George was restored. 

The theory of the law as to streets in burghs is, 
that they are held by the Magistrates, under the Crown 
for the benefit of the public. Their maintenance and repair, 
therefore, fell upon the civic authorities, and it appears that 
the means adopted by them to perform this duty was, in 
former times, to call in the service of the inhabitants. Thus, 
in 1721, the Council appoint two overseers " for mending 
and making good the King's highway within the Territories 
of the Burgh of Sanquhar, and do hereby order and ordaine 
all Heritors, Burgesses, and Inhabitants within the burgh to 
attend three full days as duly advertised for that effect to 
Mend the Highways and to furnish all necessar work, under 
penalty of eighteen shillings Scots for ilk deficient person ilk 
day." The first paving of the street took place in 1728. 
The following is the minute thereanent : " The Provost, 
Baillies and Council considering the Inconveniency and loss 
the Burgh sustains through the Badness of their Causay, 
Therefore they, with the unanimous advice and consent of 
the haill Heretors and Burgesses of this present, do appoint 
and ordain that the publick street of the said Burgh be 
causayed, And for that end appoint that each inhabitant who 

204 History of Sanquhar. 

hath keeped a Horse for half ane year by gone shall be 
oblidged to lead a Rood of Stones for the said Causay betwixt 
and the first of March next to come, and the Causaying to 
be begun against the said first of March next, And each 
person oblidged by this act to lead a Rood of Stones failing 
to do the same in the terms mentioned shall be lyable and is 
hereby fined in six pounds Scots money to be applied for lead- 
ing the said rood of stones; And appoint . . Stentmaster, 
for stenting the said Burgh proportionally according to their 
Interest and ability for raising a fund for working the said 
Causay, and appoint a stent-roll to be made up accordingly." 
In December of that year a contract was entered into " with 
James Miller and Alexander Kay, both masons and causayers 
in Kilsyth for to work the said causay as follows, viz. : The 
said contractors are to redd the ground and lay a sufficient 
causay full Five Elves brode upon the publick street of this 
Burgh from the Townhead to near the Crossknow being 
about Fifty Roods of Causay or thereby .... and the 
Town is to furnish stones, sand, and other materials neces- 
sary, and to give ready service to the Contractors, and to pay 
them three pounds, six shillings and eight pennies Scots money 
for each rood." A subsequent minute states the cost to have 
been one hundred and twenty-eight pounds, fourteen shil- 
lings Scots, the quantity proving much less than had been 

In 1789, " the Magistrates, considering that there is an 
application to be made to Parliament next session for a Bill 
for making a Turnpike road from the confines of the County 
of Ayr by this Town, Dumfries and Annan towards Graitriey 
which will require a considerable sum to compleat the same 
They Hereby Impower the Provost to subscribe for one sum 
of one hundred pounds sterling for the said Road." Prior to 
this time, the provisions for the maintenance of highways 
were very indefinite, but, during the last thirty years of the 
eighteenth century, there was a perfect spate of Acts of Par- 
liament for this purpose. So far as this district was concerned, 

History of Sanquhar. 205 

a service of the highest value and importance was rendered 
voluntarily by the Duke of Queensberry, who, towards the 
beginning of last century, constructed, in a great measure at 
his own expense, twenty-two miles of road through his estate 
from Thornhill to the borders of Ayrshire, so that, through 
His Grace's enlightened policy, Upper Nithsdale, for a whole 
century, enjoyed an advantage in this respect denied to 
many districts of the country. 

An Act was passed in 1777, which constituted Road Dis- 
tricts, the parishes of Sanquhar, Kirkconnel, Durisdeer, 
Morton, Closeburn, and Penpont forming the sixth division, 
but, while providing for the improvement of the roads in 
Annandale, it made no similar provision so far as regarded 
Nithsdale, and it seems to have been to supply this defect 
that the above-mentioned Bill was brought in in 1790. The 
turnpike roads were maintained by the s} r stem of Tolls 
which was set up at this period. That portion which passed 
through the town was always maintained by the Town 
Council. We have shewn when it was first causewayed, and 
much expense was incurred in its repair from time to time. 
There is little doubt that it ran, at one time, at a lower level, 
in fact, that it dipped down to the Corseburu, which then ran 
across the road, but that a great improvement was effected by 
the cutting through of the Crossknowe, and the levelling up of 
the ground at the Corseburn. This is confirmed by the fact 
that the old houses along the road, at this point, were at a 
lower level than the road itself, and one had to step down 
into them. Conclusive proof of the fact was at length forth- 
coming when the common sewer was constructed in 1877. 
When passing this point, two distinct pavements or cause- 
ways were laid bare, which had been simply covered at two 
successive periods when this levelling up process had taken 
place. An Act was passed in 1865 for the mauageaient of 
the whole roads in the county by divisions, conferring powers 
of assessment for the purpose, and reserving to the Trustees 
the discretionary power to continue or abolish the Tolls on 

206 History of Sanquhar. 

the Turnpike Roads. The Trustees of this district wisely 
chose the latter alternative, and, henceforth, these vexatious 
interruptions were finally removed. In 1871, the Magistrates 
petitioned the Trustees to take over the management of the 
roads in the burgh, and this was done, the Council under- 
taking, on their part, " to sweep the streets as heretofore." 
Immediately on this being arranged, the Trustees ordered the 
old-fashioned causeway to be taken up, and the roadway 
macadamised in a manner to bring it into uniformity with 
the rest of the road. 

A change was made in the part of the turnpike road 
between Sanquhar and Kirkconnel in the years 1824-1826. 
Prior to that time, the road was what is now called the " old 
road" that is, the road leading to Crawick Mill. At certain 
parts it was narrow and very steep. The bridge over 
Crawick, which still stands, is one of the old-fashioned, 
narrow, high-backed sort. The road passed thence due 
north, and, swinging round behind Whitehall farmhouse, made 
a sharp turn to the left, proceeding thence in a straight 
line past Gateside. The new road commencing just behind 
the Town Hall, inclines to the left for 100 yards or so, turns 
sharp to the right, and heads straight for Whitehill, thus 
passing through the lower lands, and avoiding the hills which 
the old road encountered. It cuts through the Manse 
avenue about the centre, and is carried over the Crawick by 
a good bridge, about 300 yards lower down than the old 
one, and joins the main road a little further north. This 
was a great improvement, and cost the Road Trustees nearly 

In addition to these obligations which were laid upon them, 
the Magistrates voluntarily undertook measures which 
seemed likely to promote the prosperity of the town, or 
which the circumstances of the people demanded. We have 
already seen that, during a great dearth and scarcity which 
occurred in the year 1812, they secured a supply of meal for 
the use of the inhabitants, which they sold at a sacrifice in 

History of Sanquhar. 207 

price, spending in this way over 70 ; and that they seldom 
failed to respond to the repeated appeals that were made to 
them by the unemployed weavers. In the year 1814, they 
paid " for Premiums and other expenses attending establish- 
ing of a Public Market " the large sum of 175 18s Id. 
There had always been fair days in the burgh, the right to 
hold them being conferred by the Charter, but this entry in 
the accounts points, in all probability, to the origin of the 
great Lamb and Wool fair held in July, which grew in 
importance, till latterly it was^ regarded as second only to 
that of Inverness. These two markets occurring early in the 
season give the first indication of the general average of 
prices that are likely to prevail during the autumn sales. 
Sanquhar is what is called a "character" market, that is, the 
stocks are not shewn, but are bought and sold by the repu- 
tation which they severally have acquired among dealers. In 
the prosperous times about the year 1872, it is said that 
transactions took place at the Sanquhar market which 
represented no less a sum than one hundred thousand 
pounds. At first, there was held on this market day a show 
of sheep stock, tups, &c., for which premiums were offered, 
and this explains the mention of premiums in the above 
expenditure. In the Dumfries Magazine of 1826, there is a 
notice of " the Tup show held at the July Market, at which 
prizes were given for the improvement of the breed, when 
the following were the prize-takers : For Blackfaced, Mi- 
Kennedy, Tynron Kirk ; and for Cheviots, Mr M'Turk, Kirk- 
land, Kirkmichael ;" so that it would appear that the com- 
petition was open, and not merely local. The Council 
continued to contribute 4 per annum for " Tup Premiums 
down to the year 1842." In truth, the fair or market was 
called the Tup Fair, a name to which many of the older 
people adhere to this day. 

The fairs authorised by the Charter were latterly held 
quarterly, and in 1858 the Council, to remove the uncertainty 
that then prevailed as to the days on which they should be 

208 History of Sanquhar. 

held, ordained "that they be on the 13th day of February, 
May, August, and November, if the 13th falls on a Friday, 
if not, on the first Friday of the month after that date." 

Another effort of a similar kind was made by the Council 
in 1833, when " being of opinion that Sanquhar is a very 
likely place for establishing a pork market, weekly on the 
Tuesdays, the Council resolve that an attempt should be 
made to set a market on foot on that day of the week, and 
to give from the Burgh funds one sovereign to the individual 
who shall sell at it the greatest quantity of pork carcasses 
during the season, and another sovereign to the individual 
who at it shall purchase the greatest quantity of pork car- 
casses during the season." The premiums of a sovereign 
were paid once, and only once, and the attempt to establish 
the market proved abortive. 

The Council shewed their interest in the cause of educa- 
tion, by giving a room in the Council house, free of rent, "for 
the use of a school, as an encouragement to teachers to settle 
in the town." It was here that school was first kept by Mr 
Josiah Lorimer, who was afterwards appointed the first 
teacher of the Crichton Endowed School. Further, in 1831, 
they conferred free education upon twenty children of poor 
parents in the Burgh and Newtown of Sanquhar, the 
nomination being left to the three clergymen of the town, 
Messrs Montgomery, Reid, and Simpson Mr Montgomery 
to name eight, and the others six each, the one-half to be 
taught by Mr Henderson, parochial teacher, and the other 
half by Mr Lorimer, who were required to make a quarterly 
report on the attendance of said free scholars. This grant of 
free education was continued for years, until the Crichton 
School was established, where provisions of a similar kind 
were made. 

They also gave donations to national movements ; thus 
they, in the stormy days of '98, in response to an appeal by 
the Lord-Lieutenant of the County, subscribed Ten Guineas 
to the voluntary fund to be raised for the defence of the 

History of Sanquhar. 209 

country. They voted a similar sum in 1815 "towards the 
Widows and Orphans of the Killed and Wounded at the 
Battle of Waterloo ;" and in 1854, Five Guineas to the Patriotic 
Fund "for the relief of the Widows and Children of the 
Soldiers and Sailors engaged at the seat of the (Crimean) 


The office of Town Clerk, though always necessary, did 
not, in the early days of the burgh, entail much work, the 
business of the Council being entirely local, and quite simple 
in character. The Clerk's salary was consequently very 
small. It was first fixed at one pound per annum, and 
continued at that figure down to the year 1792, when the 
Council, " sensible of the very great trouble attendant on 
the office and Importance of the Trust think themselves 
warranted to grant an Augmentation more particularly as 
the Revenue of the town is in a most flourishing state at 
present," increased the Clerk's salary to Five Guineas ; and 
further ordained " that the dues of each Burgess Ticket shall 
in time coming be two shillings and sixpence stg. instead of 
one shilling stg., the former allowance, from the Considera- 
tion that Wax, Vellum, and Parchment are Considerably 
increased of late years and that the Town Clerk was rather 
and has been for some time past a Loser than a gainer in 
this article." Further, "they approve of the act of the 
Council of the nomination of the present Town Clerk at 
Michaelmas 1789 in its fullest Extent with this addition if 
not sufficiently secure by that act of Council that he be now 
appointed Town Clerk ad Vitam aut Culpam, and they 
therefore Nominate, constitute and appoint him Town Clerk 
during all the days of his life accordingly with every Emolu- 
ment, privilege and pertinent belonging to said office, and 
that in the most free and absolute manner," &c. In this 
portentous minute we detect the hand of the crafty lawyer. 
Taking the Council when they are in the humour in a 


210 History of Sanqukar. 

generous mood begotten of the good times on which they had 
fallen he draws their attention to his miserably inadequate 
salary, and at once they respond in the most handsome 
manner, increasing it from a pound to five guineas 
guineas, be it observed, a denomination of money so dear 
to the legal mind. A similarly substantial increase in the 
table of fees was granted ; for the appeal ad misericordiam, 
founded on wax and vellum, was irresistible the losses of 
the poor town-clerk over his wax would have melted the 
hardest heart. But the best of all is to come. Hitherto 
he has had to wait the beck and nod of their worships to 
watch the shifting breeze, not as now-a-days of popular 
opinion, but of power and influence within the Council 
itself, and to trim his sails accordingly. Now he is 
to be lifted to a higher plane of official standing. The 
Provost, uprising, proposes to dispense for the future with 
the trouble of the annual appointment of their clerk. His 
(the Clerk's) father had served the Council for a whole 
generation ; the son was a worthy successor, and possessed 
their entire confidence. Besides, he bore the great name of 
Crichton. Why not appoint him for life ? The Provost's 
suggestion is received with a chorus of approval, and the 
thing is done. Now the wily clerk sets himself to frame a 
Minute, and puts into it all that he knows to make it binding 
and irrevocable. When the Council has dispersed, the Clerk 
steps out to the street holding his head as high, and carrying 
himself with as dignified a port, as the Provost himself. 
But we know what the national poet has said of " the best 
laid schemes of mice and men," and so it proved in this case. 
For a few years only was the Clerk allowed to enjoy his 
position of security buttressed with his ad vitam aut 
culpdm. In the year 1805, the Council challenge the 
validity of the minute of 1792, and restore the status quo 
ante. The Clerk at once puts himself on his defence. 
"The said John Crichton (so runs the minute) abides and 
holds by his nomination in the year one thousand seven 

History of Saiiqiihar. 211 

hundred and ninety-two, and Protests against any alteration 
of that solemn act of Council made in said year, and takes 
Instruments and craves Extracts." The struggle is renewed 
at next annual election in 1806. It is known in the town 
that a "scene" is likely to take place, and a crowd of citizens 
attend the meeting of the Council. This is the first instance 
of the public being admitted to the Council meetings, which 
were strictly private, the members even being sworn to secrecy. 
The Minute continues "Thereafter the Council proceeded to 
nominate a person as their clerk for the ensuing year, when 
John Crichton, their late clerk (this was the form of expres- 
sion in use in the case of a re-appointment), was proposed 
and unanimously agreed to by the whole members present, 
in their face and in the face of a large meeting positively 
refused to obey the order given him for which reason the 
Council were obliged to employ another person to write the 
same, and which person is Ebenezer Hislop, surgeon, Thornhill. 
(Signed, Ebenr.Hislop)." The above is in Hislop's handwriting. 
The Council then, with an exercise of patience, or restrained, 
perhaps, by misgivings as to the soundness of their position, 
hand back the minute book to the recalcitrant clerk, who 
thereupon adds the following paragraph : " The said John 
Crichton abides by his Election of Town Clerk as confirmed 
to him by a solemn act of Council at Michaelmas 1792, and 
Protests agt any new Election, being quite contrary to Law 
and flying in the face of a solemn act of Council." We can 
fancy what a storm was this. Both parties recognised the 
importance of the principle at stake, and fought with deter- 
mination, and we cannot but admire the courage with which 
the Clerk, standing alone, sought to maintain his position 
against an united Council, backed up by popular opinion. 
The odds were too heavy, and so we find that, after the lapse 
of another year, he tenders his resignation in the following 
letter :" Sanquhar, 5th Oct., 1807. Gentlemen, From 
many circumstances, quite unnecessary to mention, I hereby 
resign the office of Town Clerk conferred upon me for life, 

212 History of Sanquhar. 

and held by me for the last eighteen years, and from the 
Property and Interest I hold in the Borough, no person will 
rejoice more than myself to see a proper Person fill the office, 
than what nothing can be more essential for the welfare and 
prosperity of the Burgh. Every Book and Paper, &c., con- 
nected with the office is ready to be delivered up upon 
Inventory and Receipt." This letter does the Clerk the 
highest credit. The " many circumstances " referred to as 
causing his resignation can be readily imagined. It was in 
the power of the Council to make the Clerk's life, in an 
official sense, unbearable, and this would appear to have been 
done. He merely touches with a quiet dignity on his long 
services, maintaining at the same time his view as to the 
terms of his appointment, and then, with excellent spirit, 
free from all feeling of resentment on account of the treat- 
ment he had had to endure, he gracefully expresses his good 
wishes for the welfare and prosperity of the town. The 
Council should not have been outdone in courtesy, but the 
spirit they exhibit marks a striking contrast. The Minute 
simply bears that they " consider said Letter, accept of said 
Resignation," and then they proceeded to the election of a 
successor. However he comported himsel while the struggle 
lasted, the Clerk, though practically defeated, came out of it 
with much better grace than his opponents. 

The decision in the case of Simpson v. Todd, in 1824, 
which settled authoritatively the tenure of office of a town- 
clerk, shews that, apart altogether from the terms of appoint- 
ment on which he relied, Crichton was in the right, and that 
he could, had he chosen to appeal to the Court, have turned 
the tables effectually on the Council. In that case the Lord 
President (Hope) observed, and it was concurred in by the 
other judges, "that it was inconsistent with law to elect a 
town-clerk during pleasure ; that he was a public officer, 
entrusted with the performance of important public duties ; 
and that he ought not to be under the apprehension that he 
was liable to be dismissed at the pleasure, or perhaps the 

History of Sanquhar. 213 

caprice, of the Council." This decision does not seem to 
have been known to the town-clerk of Sanquhar till the year 
1852, for, down to that year, he is continued in office by 
express minute after each annual election. The salary of 
the town-clerk was increased to ten guineas at the appoint- 
ment of William Smith to the office in 1810, and it has 
continued at that figure ever since. Of course, the Clerk is 
entitled to charge for professional work done for the Council 
outside the sphere of his clerical duties. This account he 
calls his business account, and it amounted in some years to 
a heavy sum. The Council in the year 1882 came to an 
agreement with him that he should receive a regular annual 
allowance of five guineas for this description of work. In 1852 
there is a minute that the Council " continue Mr Macqueen, 
Town Clerk, to be Factor for the Burgh for uplifting the 
rents and revenues of the Burgh as formerly, and upon the 
same terms." The arrangement prior to that time as to this 
factorship seems to have rested on a tacit understanding, for 
this is the first mention of the matter to be found in the 
minutes. The commission charged was 2| per cent., and 
appears to have been first paid from 1848, down to 1858, 
when it ceased, the duties in question being now discharged 
by the Town Treasurer. 


The nature and duties of this office have undergone con- 
siderable change in the course of time. In the year 1804, 
the holder is described as " Town Officer, Billet Master, 
Keeper of the Town Clock, and Lamplighter," but the office 
embraced a great deal more than that, so long as the Magi- 
strates possessed their criminal jurisdiction. The officer 
acted as the jailer, he served all the notices and executed 
the warrants of the Court, and performed other duties which 
now devolve upon a police constable. In 1747, the salary 
attaching to the office was ten shillings a year. It is evident 
that at one time the officer had an official coat, for we have, 

214 History of Sanqukar. 

in 1807, a payment of 2 15s 8d " for a coat for the Town 

Some notable characters have filled this office at one time 
or another. The first to claim attention is William Kellock, 
who flourished in the early part of last century. The first 
mention of his name is in 1718, where we learn something 
of his official character, for we read that " the Magistrates 
and Council, considering the good service done by William 
Kellock, officer of the burgh, cancel and discharge him of 
what Feu duty he is owing preceding this date to the burgh 
for his house and yeard within the said burgh." Our interest 
is greatly increased in this worthy officer by a notice, taken 
from the Edinburgh Evening Oourant, of April 14, 1743, 
to the following effect : " Thursday last, died at Sanquhar, 
William Kellock, aged 111 years. He served the town as 
one of their common officers 96 years, and his son, now living, 
has served in the same station 70 years. He was a very 
honest man, had his senses to the last, and never made use 
of spectacles." We would fain have allowed this interesting 
paragraph to pass unchallenged, but cannot conscientiously. 
Happily, nothing can be said against the good name with 
which he is handed down to posterity, but there are circum- 
stances which cast grave doubt upon the fabulous age here 
attributed to him, for, we find that, in 1730, just thirteen 
years before his death, his name is mentioned in the Council 
Minute book as a witness before the Dean of Guild Court in 
the case of a disputed march, where he is described as 
" William Kellock, present of the age of eighty years or 
thereby." The " or thereby " might be allowed to cover a 
good deal, but scarcely so much as eighteen years the 
difference between the one account and the other of his age 
and we fear the belief in this centenarian must be given 
up. Be that as it may centenarian or no centenarian he 
worthily heads the list of the town-officers, so far as they 
are made known to us by the burgh records. 

The next to be noticed is Robert Dargavel, who filled the 

History of Sanquh ar. 215 

office for the long period of twenty-eight years from 1798 
to 1826. Robert was a weaver by trade. He was a tall, 
muscular man, with a commanding voice, and was the terror 
of all the youngsters about the place ; and yet, masterful 
officer though he was, he suffered a grievous humiliation at 
the hands of a woman. It came about in this wise The 
woman, ordered to jail for an offence, was in the charge of 
the officer. The two officer and prisoner had just got 
inside the prison, when the latter, by a dexterous manoeuvre, 
got between the officer and the door, glided swiftly out, 
closed the door, turned the key in the lock, and made off. 
The consternation and chagrin of the officer can be imagined. 
We are surprised to find that the Magistrates, in conse- 
quence, dismissed Robert from his office. The minute runs 
that they "taking into their consideration the very criminal 
Neglect of Robert Dargavel present town officer in this town 
in lately allowing Christian M'Lean a prisoner thro gross 
negligence escape out of the Jail of this Burgh, Therefore 
owing to his gross fault and neglect in all respects so Injurious 
to the Interests of this Burgh unanimously have dismissed 
and do hereby dismiss him from his present office of Town 
Officer and Jailor." Had the Magistrates not been dead to 
all sense of humour, they could not have taken such a solemn 
view of the circumstances. Their sentence was altogether 


too hard upon the poor officer, who must have been sufficiently 
punished by the chaff to which he would be subjected by the 
townspeople. It is gratifying, however, to know that, after a 
short interval, he was restored to his office, which thence- 
forward he continued to exercise till the day of his death. 

He was succeeded by Sergeant Andrew Thomson, nick- 
named " Beagle Andrew," and sometimes " Greenback," from 
the fact that he wore a green coat. The sergeant was a fine 
strapping officer, over six feet in height. He had served his 
time in the army was one of the famous Scots Greys who 
fought at Waterloo, and who elicited the admiration of the 
great Napoleon, both for their soldierly bearing and their 
gallantry in action. 

216 History of Sanquhar. 

Coming down to a later time, we make the acquaintance 
of another officer who merits particular notice viz., James 
Black, than whom no Corporation ever had a more devoted 
and trustworthy servant. Diligence and fidelity marked the 
performance of all his work, and notably in the collection of 
custom. He was not content to lounge about the street, and 
take what came to his hand, but was ever on the alert for 
passing traffic. Drovers knew the sort of man they had to 
deal with, and tried every shift to slip past the burgh without 
paying the custom. A favourite trick with them was when, 
on their southward journey, they approached the town, instead 
of continuing along the turnpike road, they turned down the 
road to Nith Bridge, and, crossing the river, drove their 
cattle or sheep down the south side, rejoining the main road 
further south. But the officer was too many for them. He 
could not be always at this point, but, by an application of 
the craft in which the backwoodsman of America excels, he 
laid a trap for them after the following manner. He pro- 
cured a quantity of damp earth, a layer of which he laid 
across the road. Cattle or sheep passing along left their 
footprints, and these gave the officer all the knowledge he 
wanted. He visited the place at intervals, and an examina- 
tion of the ground shewed not only whether it was cattle or 
sheep that had passed, but the direction in which they had 
gone. James immediately followed in pursuit. Sometimes 
the drover had gained a considerable distance, and was 
chuckling how he had circumvented the old officer, but his 
conclusions generally proved premature. The unerring 
detective was on his track, and, though he had to trudge 
weary miles, he would not give up the chase till he had 
overtaken his man, and recovered his custom. The service 
of the burgh, and the protection of its interests, were with 
him a perfect passion ; and he has been known, when his 
quick ear caught the sound of a passing cart, to spring out 
of bed, and, not waiting to dress, lest in the interval his 
victim should escape, rush out to the street, and speed along 

History of Sa n qukar. 217 

in pursuit, presenting much the appearance of a disembodied 
spirit. And all this for what ? A beggarly pittance of 9s 
per week. A minute of 26th April, 1853, runs thus " The 
Council agree to allow James Black, Town Officer, on account 
of the heavy work he is doing on the street at present, a 
wage at the rate of 9s per week during the current year, in 
full of his whole services to the Burgh." The heavy work 
on the street refers to the paving that he did, for James was 
a handy man, and never idle. His wage was subsequently 
increased to 12s, and then to 14s per week, an increase which 
was well earned, for the revenue from the customs had notably 
improved from the time when he took them in hand. At 
length, the time came when heavy work was beyond 
his power, but what he could do was still done with 
all his old spirit and fidelity. In 1872, in a 'Council, the 
majority of the members of which seem to have been dead to 
all generous feeling, an agitation was raised to cut down their 
old servant's wages. He was at the time labouring under a 
temporary illness when he learned what was proposed to be 
done. The wage was reduced to 10s, and the act would 
seem to have broken the old officer's spirit. He died three 
months after, at the age of 72. 


The inhabitants of small burghs in the olden time, not 
forgetful of the great advantages they enjoyed by the grace 
of the Sovereign, were intensely loyal, and the annual cele- 
bration of the King's Birthday was for long one of the 
principal events of the year. The Town Council naturally 
took the lead in the festivities that were indulged in. The 
first formal minute on the subject is dated 1728, and runs 
thus : " The Provost Baillies and Council considering that 
this is his Majesty King George the Second his Birthday 
have therefore resolved at twelve of the clock the said day to 
repair to the Tolbooth, and to go from thence to the Cross, 
And there drink his Majesty King George the Second his 


218 History of Sanquhar. 

Health and all other Loyal Healths, and ordaine the Bells of 
the Town to be rung, Drurabs to beat, and other Instruments 
of Musick to play upon that occasion, And the Train bands 
of the Town to be drawn up and fire as usuall." 

The following note appears in the Dumfries Magazine in 
the year 1826 : " On Thursday last, about mid-day, the 
common-bellman of Sanquhar made a notification in the 
following words : ' I'm requeested to intimate that the ban' 
o' moosic will meet at the pump well the night at seven 
o'clock, to play ' God Save the King.' and they'll be glad o' 
the company o' ony body 'at likes to come and hear them, 
an' to tak' a glass wi' them afterwards, in a quate, discreet 
kin' o' way, when a' his Majesty's loyal subjects are gaun to 
toss the King's health for the favour he has dune to the 
leeges o' Sanquhar in opening the ports at this prezeese 
time.' In consequence, it is related, of the above call upon 
their loyalty, a number of the leeges assembled, and listened 
to the performance of the King's anthem, and then adjourned 
from the pump-well to the Court House, where they pledged 
his Majesty's health, long life, and prosperity in brimming 
bumpers, but from the more potent liquor drawn from John 

The naivete of these proclamations is charming, and they 
give us a delightful peep at one of the great merrymakings 
of former days in Sanquhar. The reference in the latter to the 
immediate cause of the citizens' abounding gratitude, that his 
Majesty "had opened the ports at this prezeese time," relates 
to the oppressive Corn Laws, the baleful effects of which 
upon the condition of the lower classes especially we have 
elsewhere pointed out, and reminds us of the fact that this 
year 1826 was, and is still, called " the dry year." No rain 
fell for several months ; in some cases the corn never was 
blessed with a shower from sowing to reaping, and was 
harvested in the beginning of August, an unprecedentedly 
early date for this high locality. It was so short that most 
of it had to be pulled by the hand, instead of being reaped 

History of Sanqukar. 219 

by the sickle in the usual way. The result was, that a good 
deal of soil adhered to the roots in the process of pulling, 
which the utmost care in fanning failed to separate altogether 
from the grain, and the meal made from it was so mixed 
with sand as to be very trying to the teeth. The measure 
adopted by the King was a bold but wise and necessary 
stroke of policy. It was a suspension, on his own personal 
authority, of the protective laws. We have seen how, time 
after time, through the failure of the harvest, and the main- 
tenance of these laws in all their rigour and severity, the 
people had been brought to the very verge of famine. This 
was one of those supreme crises which occur in the history of 
a nation, when everything must be subordinated to the first 
duty of every Government the protection of the lives of its 
citizens; and the King was, therefore, justified in a course 
which, though technically illegal, was necessary to the saving 
of his people. This celebration of the King's birthday was 
one of the great celebrations of the year, in which the whole 
population, young and old, joined with the greatest enthu- 
siasm. The forms which such celebrations assumed were not 
so varied in those days, and consisted chiefly of processions, 
drinking, and. the burning of tar-barrels. The Town Council 
set the fashion, as we have seen, by marching in a body from 
the Town Hall to the " pump-well," where the King's health 
was drunk with all the honours. They were joined by the 
large body of the populace, whose attendance was doubtless 
augmented by the presence, as often was the case, of a half- 
hogshead, then termed an eighteen-dozen cask, of ale, from 
which they were allowed to draw ad libitum. The " ban' o' 
moosic " played the National Anthem, and other stirring- 
airs ; and, the ball thus set rolling, the merry-making was 
carried on during the evening with great vigour. Some of 
the younger spirits generally contrived to procure a tar- 
barrel, which they placed on a cart, and dragged through the 
streets with ropes, cheering and yelling the while. This 
rough torchlight procession was rather a dangerous amuse- 

220 History of Sanquhar. 

ment in the times when the whole houses, with rare excep- 
tions, were thatched with straw, but we have not heard that 
any untoward mishap ever occurred. The tar-barrels were 
procured from the farmers in the neighbourhood, who used 
large quantities of tar in the now obsolete process of smear- 
ing their sheep. 

The Trades Election was another great day of the year. 
It occurred about the same time as the election of the 
Council. Here the observances were of much the same 
description. The Trades met about mid-day, in the vicinity 
of the Town Hall, formed into procession, and, headed by the 
instrumental band, paraded down the street and back, and 
then passed on usually to Crawick, where, at a certain period, 
they were always hospitably entertained by Mr Rigg, the 
principal partner of the Forge Company there, and where 
the greater part of the afternoon was spent in out-door sports. 
Returning to the town, they broke up into divisions by 
trades Squaremen (masons and joiners), Blacksmiths, 
Weavers, Shoemakers, and Tailors each trade proceeding 
together to a particular public-house. There was plenty of 
choice, when there were from fifteen to twenty licensed houses, 
and these all got a turn, in succession, of the patronage of the 
tradesmen. Business meetings were held by each, the chief 
item of which was the election of the deacon of the trade ; 
after which the members dined together, and spent the night 
in right jolly fashion. Drink was cheap, teetotalism was 
seldom professed, and the name of Forbes Mackenzie had 
not yet been heard in the land. Through the greater part 
of the night, the revel proceeded, and, in the grey dawn of 
the next morning, the last survivors might full oft be seen 
staggering home. While their elders were thus engaged 
upstairs, the 'prentices were not forgotten. They received 
their dinner, free, at a second table downstairs, and a certain 
allowance of drink was sent down in order that they might 
qualify themselves for taking their place some day in the 
upper circle. The provision made was always very abundant, 

History of Sanquhar. 221 

each keeper of a house being anxious to earn a good reputa- 
tion among the tradesmen for the quality of his entertainment, 
and so it was a common custom for some to turn in next day, 
when they received a substantial dinner off the fragments on 
very easy terms. Was it hunger or drouth, after all, that 
took them back ? 

Another red-letter day was the annual Riding of the 
Marches. At a time when a large part of the land was 
absolutely unfenced, and the boundaries of properties were 
only marked in the rudest manner, this was a most necessary 
proceeding. It served to preserve in the minds of the 
inhabitants a clear recollection of what those boundaries 
were. In a minute of the year 1730, we have the first 
reference to this practice, which shews that even then it was 
not new. In the minute the Provost, Baillies, and Council 
" appoint and ordain that all and each man Burges and 
Inhabitant within the Burgh of Sanquhar haveing a Horse 
of his own do wait upon the Magistrates and Council the 
said day by eleven of the clock in the forenoon to ride the 
Marches of the Burgh, as formerly, each man under the 
penalty of ten merks Scots money." The lead in this 
observance was naturally taken by the Town Council, the 
guardians of the rights of the public, but they were by no 
means without countenance on the occasion, for they carried 
a "jar "with them. Proceeding down the street, they left 
the main road when the Townfoot burn had been reached, 
and, following the track of the burn, they ascended the face 
of the brae. Wending to the right, they passed the herd's 
house and reached the summit, where the first halt was 
called, and the first "dram" partaken of. Resuming their 
journey, they swept round the moor, caught on to the head 
of the Conrick Burn, and so, they pursued their devious 
course towards Crawick Mill, where the ceremony practically 
ended. This was by no means a complete circuit of the 
marches, but it covered the parts where the boundary was 
least plainly defined. In the last years of its observance, 

222 History of Sanquhar. 

the crowd was headed by one Captain Scott, a retired army 
officer, who resided in the town, and took an interest in its 
welfare. The gallant captain donned his old military uniform 
for the occasion. A horse for his use was kindly lent by 
some one, and, mounted on this horse, his scarlet coat gave 
quite a character to the procession. The captain was popular, 
and his presence, imposing as it would appear to the imagina- 
tion of the youngsters, did more than anything else to ensure 
the continuance of this ancient custom, long after its practi- 
cal utility had ceased. The last occasion on which it was 
observed was over sixty years ago. An attempt was made 
in 1853 to revive it. A petition was presented to the Town 
Council asking them to arrange for the observance of the 
custom, which for many years had been neglected. The 
Council were not influenced by any consideration of archaic 
interest connected with it, but regarded it from a merely 
utilitarian point of view. They "saw no good purpose to be 
served by such a proceeding, recommend the petitioners to 
depart from the proposal, but if they resolve to carry it out, 
the Council leave them to act entirely on their own responsi- 
bility in the matter." Thus passed away another of the 
picturesque features of the social life of the old burgh. 

In a municipal sense, the election of the Town Council 
was the event of the whole year. So long as the old council 
had the right to elect the new, the dramatis personce 
consisted only of the members : the general body of the 
inhabitants only played the part of interested spectators. 
Notwithstanding, it aroused a high degree of interest, and 
was the subject of many secret cabals and dexterous wire- 
pulling. A seat at the Council was then the only position 
of power and influence in the burgh. All who sat there were, 
therefore, persons of consideration, and the provostship was 
the highest and most dignified post to which any one could 
hope to aspire. He was brought into contact with territorial 
magnates, and, especially about the time of a parliamentary 
election, was privileged to rub shoulders with the highest 

History of Sanquhar. 223 

and best in the county, and, as we have seen, if he was not 
hampered with scruples of conscience, could, if he played his 
cards well, manage to make his position not only agreeable 
but profitable. In the annual election, therefore, it was that 
all the strivings of parties and cliques culminated, but the 
banquet which followed served to soothe the asperities of 
party warfare. But, in truth, these same municipal feasts 
were of not infrequent occurrence it being a common saying 
yet in the town that, during the period when the burgh was 
reaping a large revenue out of the coal-works on the moor, 
if a pound of nails were wanted for the works it cost five 
pounds before they could be ordered ; for the meetings of 
Council were usually held in public-houses, when eating and 
drinking formed the principal part of the business. This is 
probably an exaggeration, but, that the practice prevailed to 
a certain extent, there can be little doubt, and that will 
explain, what otherwise appears inexplicable, why, at a time 
when the Council must have had much important business 
to transact, the minutes are so meagre. At such meetings 
they would, in all likelihood, dispense with the ceremony of 
writing minutes. 

These were the great standing celebrations of the year. 
Others connected with particular events we shall take up in 
their chronological order. 

Thus far, the different parts of the municipal history of the 
town have been treated by bringing together the materials 
connected with particular heads, but there remain various 
matters and incidents, referred to in the Council Minutes, 
which are incapable of being thus grouped, and we shall 
have to take these in the order of time of their occurrence, 
giving, in most cases, the minute, and adding whatever 
remarks or explanations may appear to be necessary to place 
them fully before the reader. 

20th July, 1730." The said day the Provost, Baillies, and Council have 
sold to Robert Fisher, Dyster in Sanquhar, that piece of ground called 

224 History of Sanquhar. 

' Sarah's Frock,' belonging in common to the Burgh, lying upon the water 
of Crack from the foot of the brae to the said water, and that for building 
a Waulk Miln with a House Steed and Milldams thereto, with free passage 
to and from the same, and that for payment of six shillings eight pennies 
of yearly Feu-duty." 

28th May, 1743. "The said day the Provost produces an Act of the 
Justices of the Peace of the Shire of Dumfries aneut the spinning of Woolen 
Yarn, which is read in Council, and the same is appointed to be intimat at 
the Mercat Cross upon the next Mercat Day in time of Publick Mercat, 
and also to be intimat at the Paroch Kirk door of Sanquhar the" first Day 
there shall be Sermon, &c." 

4th June, 17S9. " The Magistrates and Council being mett for the pur- 
pose of laying a plan for making the street into a Regular line were unani- 
mously of opinion that when any part of the said street was to be rebuilt 
that the same should run from the North Corner of the New Inn to the 
East Corner of Mr Barker's house in a straight line, and the Houses behind 
said Line to be brought forward, and those that are too near the street of 
said Line to be taken back. " 

29th September, 1800. Previous to the election of the New Council, " a 
Protest was given in by Robert Whigham, Esq. of Hallidayhill, a member 
of the Town Council of the Royal Borough of Sanquhar, and present Dean 
of Guild of said Borough, Bearing that he did then at the Election of 
Magistrates and Council for said Borough of Sanquhar, for the year ensuing 
which was about to take place Protest that in case the persons following 
. . . all Indwellers in Sanquhar and present Members of the Council of the 
said burgh or any one of them should attempt to take it upon them to vote 
at the present election of Magistrates and Council, their votes should not 
be received and ought not to be admitted, in regard they were acting 
under a Corrupt and undue influence, and had lately entered into an illegal 
obligation and Combination subversive of the Constitution and freedom of 
the Election .... and that they and each of them should 
be liable to him Jointly and Severally in all Damages, Cost, Skaith, or 
Expenses he might sustain or incur thereby." 

" The said day James Hamilton, a Member of the Town Council, and 
one of the persons against whom the above Protest of Mr Robert Whigham 
was taken, Averred that the same was false, and that 110 undue Influence 
was used against him or any of his Brethren." 

Mr Whigham then nominated seventeen persons for elec- 
tion, and a vote having been called, six persons voted for 
those nominated by him, whereupon he claimed that 
" having been approved by a majority of the legal votes they 
are the Persons who are now to be considered as the only 
legal and lawful Counsellors of this Burgh for the ensuing 

History of Sanquhar. 225 

year ; Therefore he takes Instruments in the hands of the 

' ' The said James Hamilton Protested in like manner against the said 
Robert Whigham, for the gross impropriety of clogging the Minutes with 
so much idle stuff, seeing his List of Council was rejected by a great 
majority, and took Instruments and craved Extracts." 

What a fearful upheaval have we here, evidently the 
climax of a struggle between Whigham and Otto for 
supremacy. A typical example of the rivalries that spring up 
in the municipal bodies of small burghs. For weeks secret 
cabals have been held, wire-pulling has been diligently 
carried on, and every possible shift and expedient resorted to 
by each of the rivals, to capture the wavering Councillors and 
vanquish his adversary. And now the fateful day has 
arrived. Whigharn, knowing that his opponent has out- 
witted him, flings down his protest on the table. It acts 
like a bombshell. The Councillors spring to their feet ; the 
angry rivals stand confronting each other, surrounded each 
by his supporters ; while the witnesses brought in for the 
occasion skulk timidly behind their principals. Hamilton, 
for himself and his colleagues, gives voice to the indignation 
with which they repel the offensive allegation made against 
them, winding up with a sentence, brief, pointed, and pithy, 
in which he pours contempt upon Whigham's protest, 
characterising it as " idle stuff." The latter, baffled and 
defeated, has to withdraw with what dignity he can muster 
in his humiliating position. It is to be regretted that one 
who had occupied the civic chair for the long period of 
sixteen years should have had to make his final exit in this 

In the very beginning of the present century, the streets of 
the town were lighted with lamps, for, in 1802, the Council, 
recognising " the great benefit the Inhabitants of the town 
and other places receive from Lamps being regularly lighted 
and kept burning on the streets," agree that the expense of 
the same shall be defrayed from the town's funds, and offer 


22(5 History of Sanquhar. 

a reward for the discovery of those persons who are guilty of 
the " wicked practice " of breaking said lamps. In 1840 the 
hours fixed for lighting the street lamps, when there was not 
moonlight, were " Until eleven o'clock, except on Sunday 
nights and Saturday nights the former till ten o'clock, the 
latter till twelve o'clock." Of course, they were lighted with 
oil till the introduction of gas in the year 1840. 

'3rd October, 1812. Por some reason not stated, the Town 
Clerk, William Smith, had been deprived of his burgess 
ticket, and, not being qualified to conduct the election of 
Council, as a matter of form he had to resign his Clerkship, 
and William Gordon, jun., writer in Dumfries, was appointed 
in his room. The same day Smith was re-admitted Burgess, 
and two days after, at the close of the annual election, he 
was restored to his office. Gordon was, therefore, Town 
Clerk for two days only. 

27th May, 1833. The Magistrates, now elected by the 
voice of the electors, and imbued with the reforming spirit of 
the age, or observing the drift of public opinion, " unani- 
mously resolve for the future to throw the privileges of the 
Burgh open, to the extent of not exacting from any indi- 
vidual coming into the Burgh and keeping a shop or carrying 
on any sort of trade or business whatever, any of the fees or 
charges hitherto in the use of being levied from persons 
commencing business .... but such person shall not 
be entitled to procure a formal admission as Burgess from 
the Magistrates without payment of the usual expense and 
upon the usual terms. The Council also recommend to the 
Trades of the Burgh to throw open their respective [crafts] 
to all and sundry without exception, and voluntarily to 
abandon their seals of cause for all time coming." The 
Magistrates may have resolved to make a virtue of necessity, 
but at any rate their action, as persons professing Liberal 
principles, was consistent, and, on this ground, contrasts 
favourably with the action of their successors of a later time, 
who clung to their rights in regard to custom, till these were 

History of Sanquhar, 227 

taken from them by the Legislature. Prompted by the old 
Conservative spirit, a motion was made in 1835 to revive 
the ancient restrictions on trading in the town, limiting the 
freedom to such as were Burgesses, but the attempt was 

We now reach a period of disturbance and litigation, which 
kept the Council and the town itself in a somewhat lively 
condition, and for which two individuals, William Broom 
and Thomas Rae, were largely responsible. Mr Broom was 
elected the first provost under the reformed franchise. The 
list of votes given at the election were, until the Ballot Act 
was passed, recorded in the Minute Book, and, by a careful 
study of these lists, one can distinguish the little parties into 
which the Council and the constituency were, from the first, 
divided. In the year 1835, Provost Broom's list of candi- 
dates were all defeated by a sweeping majority. The Provost 
seems to have taken his defeat with a bad grace, and he 
resolved to play the dog in the manger, regardless of his 
statutory duty as Chief Magistrate, and his oath 
Councillor. At the first meeting of the Council for the pur- 
pose of swearing-in the new Councillors, the Provost is noted 
in the minute as " being absent without any excuse." The 
three Bailies, who had been of the Provost's party, and had 
been defeated at the election two days before, declined to 
attend the meeting or preside at the election of magistrates. 
In this they were right, and the Provost, taking advantage 
of the fact that he was at the moment the only magistrate 
in the burgh, probably designed, by absenting himself, to 
put the Council in a fix ; but they were under the guidance 
of a wary clerk, Mr J. W. Macqueen, and the business pro- 
ceeded without the Provost. It would appear that he there- 
upon, in a characteristic manner (for he was a good deal 
given to bluster), threatened to overturn the whole proceed- 
ings. The opinion of counsel was taken, and was in favour 
of " the validity of the late election under the peculiar cir- 
cumstances under which it took place." 

228 History of Sanquhar. 

This seems to have settled the Provost for the time. He 
fell into the sulks, and never more during his tenure of office 
did he attend a single meeting of Council, except at the 
annual roup of the game on the moor, in which he was 
personally interested, and at the end, as presiding officer, 
when he was standing as a candidate for re-election. He, 
with his other nominees, was signally defeated, with the 
exception of one William Brown (" Singy " Brown, as he was 
nicknamed, being a singing - master), but so completely 
had the Provost his party under control that "Singy" declined 
office when he saw that his chief was defeated. In this un- 
dignified and humiliating manner did Provost Broom's con- 
nection with the Town Council cease for a time. It was 
only for a time, for we find that, though he stood next year 
as a candidate and received only one vote, in the year 
following, 1838, the vicissitudes of party warfare which, in 
small country towns, are frequently as bewildering as the 
transformation scene of a pantomime, received forcible 
illustration in Broom's election, first as a councillor, and 
subsequently as Provost. A fresh denoument occurs during 
this second term of Mr Broom's Provostship, for in 1840 it 
is recorded that on the election of John Donaldson as 
Burgh and Council Officer, the Provost, who opposed his 
appointment, instantly intimated "that in consequence of 
this vote as to the officer, he, the Provost, now hereby 
resigned, and does resign the office of Provost from the 
present moment." This incident exhibits Broom as of an 
impetuous, wilful disposition. He must have everything his 
own way, and when he is thwarted acts in a rash and pre- 
cipitate manner. This is his last appearance at the Council 
board, but he continues to act as a thorn in the side of the 
Council for years after, in connection with business relations 
he had with them as an owner of part of the divided land on 
the rnuir and tacksman of coal. A year after, he applies for 
their permission to cut a Level up the Cow Wynd from the 
street to drain his coal workings. The Council accede to Mr 

History of Sanquhar. 229 

Broom's application . . . '' it being expressly provided 
and stipulated that the Council shall ever afterwards enjoy the 
privilege of the use of the proposed new Level, free of any con- 
sideration or compensation being claimable for such privilege." 
It was further stipulated that Broom should do nothing to dis- 
turb the previously existing level, which afforded a valuable 
supply of good water for the service of the inhabitants. 
Notwithstanding all these stipulations, the result was that 
the old level was tapped, and the supply of water ceased 
This led to an angry controversy, but the Council, unable to 
make anything of Broom, had occasion to repent of the 
liberty they had granted him. Then, again, in a dispute 
with him in 1842, with regard to the portion of the town's 
lauds held by him, which it was agreed to refer to arbitration. 
Broom named a Thomas Craig, his own sub-tenant, as his 
representative, a person who had a direct interest in the 
matter. The Council, impressed with the barefaced nature 
of Broom's proposal, agree to meet him on his ground, and 
" in the event of Mr Broom persisting in Mr Thomas Craig, 
his Tenant, being named Referee on his part, that the 
Council name Mr Thomas Rae, one of their tenants, as 
Referee on their part." Those who knew the men, and the 
relation of cordial hatred that subsisted between Broom and 
Rae, will appreciate the humour of the Council's proposal 
and the effectiveness of it as a counter move. That it was 
only meant as that is shewn from the fact that the minute 
goes on to say that "if Mr Broom will name a neutral person 
of intelligence and respectability on his part, the Council in 
that case appoint Mr James Dalziel, in Auchengruith, as 
their Referee." Rae was, as we have said, on bad terms 
with Broom. Between the two there was a great similarity 
of disposition. Both were almost incessantly engaged in 
petty litigations, and Rae ultimately ruined himself in this 
way. The Mr Dalziel whom the Council really wished to 
represent them was a person of a very different stamp, being 
a gentleman of great natural shrewdness, extensive know- 

230 History of Sanquhar. 

ledge, and experience, and, above all, of unimpeachable 
integrity. So great was the public confidence in his capacity 
and his unbending impartiality that very frequently he was 
called in singly to arbitrate between disputants. 

Mr Broom's name again crops up in 1850, when he 
attempted to close the road across the muir, from the main- 
road towards Conrick, by building a dyke across each end of 
it. The Council " resolve that the dykes referred to at said 
road shall be thrown down and removed," which was done by 
the officer. Broom raised an action of Interdict, but subse- 
quently withdrew it. At the same time he proceeded to 
quarry stones in his lands without the Council's permission, 
and this in the face of a decision obtained some years 

The Free Church congregation at Sanquhar had their own 
share of the annoyance and persecution to which the Church 
was subjected in many quarters. The attitude taken up by 
the Duke of Buccleuch towards the Church elsewhere 
rendered it plain that they need not expect any facilities 
from him. The difficulty of procuring stones for the erection 
of their Church was solved by the Town Council coming 
forward and offering them the liberty to quarry stones 
from the muir-lands. The place chosen was on Raefield, 
owned by the Thomas Rae already referred to. The fence 
was taken down, a road constructed, and considerable pro- 
gress made in the work of quarrying, when Rae came down 
upon the Church authorities with an interdict. This raised 
the question whether those persons who had participated in 
the division of the muir lands were in the position of absolute 
owners, or had their rights confined to the surface, the 
minerals remaining with the town as superior. The Council 
resolved to defend the case in the name of the contractor, 
who had been served with the interdict. The Sheriff decided 
in favour of the Council, but Rae appealed to the Court of 
Session, and while the case was still in dependence " it was 
ascertained by the Council that Thomas Rae has proceeded 

History of Sanquhar. 231 

and caused the quarry at the muir to be filled up and 
levelled, and that the same thing has been done with the 
road into it, and that the dyke across the road has been 
re-built and the hedge re-planted, and that he has buried 
almost all the large quantity of stones which Mr Hair had 
quarried and put out in so filling up the said quarry." This 
incident shews what a resolute, fearless character Rae was. 
The majesty of the law even could not overawe him. The 
final decision was given against him, and another controversy 
which caused much bitterness in the whole district was 

I4>th October, 1836. The Council resolved to present the 
freedom of the burgh to the youthful Duke of Buccleuch. 
On the 28th inst. he was admitted, and a Burgess Ticket, 
written on a stamp of 1 (his Grace's father having been a 
Burgess), was extended accordingly. The Council purposed 
presenting the Burgess Ticket to His Grace at the Holm, 
before he left the country, but that arrangement was not 
found convenient to the Duke, and a deputation consisting 
of two bailies and the clerk proceeded to the Castle with that 
object. On their return, they reported that " His Grace 
had been pleased to receive the Ticket in a very kind and 
affable and condescending manner ; that the deputation had 
been treated with every mark of attention and respect ; and 
that the Duke had expressed his satisfaction and gratification 
at receiving such a token of respect from the Sanquhar Town 

6th June, 1854. The Provost laid on the table the invita- 
tion he had received to attend the opening of the Crystal 
Palace, London, by the Queen, on the 10th inst., and "the 
Council grant the sum of five guineas to the Provost to 
assist in defraying his travelling and other expenses." 

232 History of Sanquhar. 


The practice, now so common in the larger towns, of pre- 
senting the freedom of the burgh to men of distinction as a 
mark of honour and respect, had been practised by the Town 
Council of Sanquhar from the earliest times down to the 
year 1813. From that date, however, there is no instance 
of the freedom being conferred till 1854, when a descendant 
of the ancient Crichtons, the lords of the Castle, was a 
recipient of this honour. The Provost called a meeting of 
the Council " in consequence of hearing that to-morrow Lord 
Patrick James Herbert Crichton Stuart is to visit Sanquhar 
for the purpose of seeing this Locality, where his ancestors 
in ancient times resided, owned extensive possessions, and 
held influential sway, and under whose fostering auspices 
this Burgh was originally created a Burgh, and obtained all 
its rights, privileges, and immunities." The Council unani- 
mously resolved to present " Lord James Stuart with an 
Honorary Burgess Ticket, as the only mark of respect which 
it is in their power, in their corporate capacity, to bestow.'' 
This is the last entry on the roll of Hon. Burgesses, which 
will be found in the Appendix. 

A reference to the paragraph on the town lands will shew 
that it was about this time that these were laid out in a farm, 
fenced, drained, and a steading built. In these important 
works, the Council were guided and advised by Messrs 
Dalziel, Auchengruith, and Kennedy, Brandleys, in agricul- 
tural matters, and by Mr Archibald Brown in regard to all 
buildings. These gentlemen, having declined to accept any 
remuneration, were entertained to dinner by the Council on 
22nd March, 1858, " in acknowledgment for their very useful 

In addition to the settlement of their land, the Town 
Council at this period promoted other works of public utility 
In 1857, they resolved to procure 'a new bell for the Town 
Hall, the Town's funds to provide one-half of the sum neces- 

History of Sanquhar. 233 

sary, the remainder to be raised by subscription. At next 
meeting a subscription of 25 from the Duke of Buccleuch 
towards this object was intimated, and the Council acknow- 
ledge their grateful sense of the Duke's liberality in a matter 
in which they take a lively interest. The Council had 
previously in the same year erected a new clock in the Town 
Hall at a cost of 50, the face of the old clock being nailed 
up on the end of the Town Hall to be used as an advertising 
board ; and likewise built a new stair with iron railing, while 
they had the interior thoroughly repaired and painted at a 
cost of 70. They had also obtained a satisfactory settle- 
ment of the Custom question with the Railway Company. 
This energetic and enterprising Council was composed of the 
following members : Provost John Williamson ; Bailies 
Samuel Whigham and William Kerr ; Dean of Guild Walter 
Scott ; Treasurer (Jeo. Osborne ; Councillors Archd. Brown, 
Thomas Shaw, Alexander Simpson, and Robert Stoddart. 

In 1858, the last attempt to work coal in the vicinity of 
the town was made by Mr George Clennell above the railway, 
close to Matthew's Folly road, but without success. The 
attempt was speedily abandoned. It was in connection with 
a claim by the Council against Clennell for coal abstracted 
from underneath the road, which they claimed, that the 
ominous discovery was first made that the Charter was lost. 
This announcement was made at a meeting held in February, 
1860, and created the utmost consternation, not only in the 
Council, but outside. The Town Clerk, Mr J. W. Macqueeu, 
stated that the Charter had never been in his possession, and 
produced a list of documents which he had received from his 
predecessor, Mr Smith, in which it did not appear, but 
several copies of translation were in his possession. This 
was a vital matter, and the Council instituted a search in 
every quarter where there was the faintest hope of its 
recovery, but in vain. The wildest conjectures were indulged 
in by the townspeople as to how the precious document had 
been spirited away, but these did not assist in any way to its 


234 History of Sa nqit Ji ar. 

finding. At length, after fruitless inquiries, the hope of its 
recovery was abandoned, and an action was raised in the 
Court of Session, in 1862, to prove its tenor, with the view 
of obtaining a new Charter. The case for the Council was 
as follows : 

I. A manuscript volume exhibited by Samuel Halkett, 
Keeper of the Advocates' Library, entitled " Juridical and 
Historical Collections," contained a writing intituled "Copie 
of the Charter of Erection of the Toune of Sanquhar in a 
Brugh Royall, dated in 1598." 

II. Deposition of David Laing, Librarian to the Society of 
Writers to Her Majesty's Signet, to the following effect I 
am well acquainted with the handwriting of Lord Fountain- 
hall, who was one of the Senators of the College of Justice 
from 1689 till about the time of his death in 1722. I know 
his handwriting from having edited three printed volumes of 
historical notices, selected from his manuscripts. This was 
done for the Bannatyne Club. Being shewn the manuscript 
volume exhibited by the preceding witness, Mr Halkett, and 
the before-mentioned writing therein contained, depones The 
title of this writing and the marginal note at the commence- 
ment thereof are both in Lord Fountainhall's hand-writing. 
The following docquet at the close of the Charter is likewise, 
I am satisfied, in Lord Fountainhall's hand-writing : " I 
have likewise seen the proecept furth of the Chancery of the 
same date w t- this Charter, for infefting the said toune of 
Sanquhar, item, their seasine following thirupon. The 
license granted by my Lord Sanquhar, mentioned in this 
Charter, is only this : I, Robert, Lord Creighton of Sanquhar, 
wills and consents that the brugh of Sanquhar (which was of 
before ane brugh of barony), be erected now in a free Brugh 
regall, with all immunities and privileges His Maty, shall 
think fit to give thirto. In witness whereof, written, &c. 
Other licenses bear a reserva'on to the former baron of his 
few-duties and casualities, but this contains no such clause, 
vide pag. seq." 

History of Sanqtihar. 235 

III. W. 0. Macqueen, town-clerk of Sauquhar, gave 
evidence that the Charter of erection of the burgh of 
Sanquhar as a royal burgh, the relative precept for infeft- 
ment, and the instrument of sasine, had gone amissing, and 
that it was a tradition in the town-clerk's office that these 
writings had for some particular purpose, unknown, been 
sent out of the custody of the town-clerk. The time when 
this was believed to have occurred was in the latter part of 
the eighteenth century, during the clerkship of John 
Crichton, who held office from 1789 to 1807. This opinion 
is founded on the fact that, in an inventory drawn up by the 
said John Crichton, while he was town clerk, of the principal 
papers, books, and others kept as records for the burgh of 
Sanquhar, there is an entry of the original Charter as in his 
possession at the time, but there is no mention of the said 
Charter in the inventory of papers delivered by him in 1808 
to his successor in office, Joseph Gillou. 

Not only did Mr M'Queen testify that the whole archives 
of the burgh had been diligently searched, but that the 
whole papers of the said John Crichton, and also of James 
Crichton, his predecessor in office, which were then in the 
possession of Mrs Otto, Newark, near Sanquhar, had likewise 
been examined without a trace of the missing documents 
being found. Further, a search of the papers at Eliock 
House had been made in 1827, by Sheriff Veitch of Lanark- 
shire, for the benefit of a friend engaged in writing a 
history of Dumfriesshire, but no trace had been found of the 
said charter or precept. The tenor of the original charter 
having in this way fortunately been preserved by the 
diligence of Lord Fountainhall, the Council were successful 
in obtaining a Charter of Novodamus on the same lines at 
the hands of the Supreme Court, and were thus relieved 
from the position of embarrassment in which they found 
themselves when the loss of the original charter was made 
known. The process of proving cost 328 5s 3d. 

This was an anxious time for the town, for a serious claim 

236 History of Sanquhar. 

was made in 1860 by the Duke of Bucclench as Titular for 
arrears of stipend and interest due by the Town on their 
lands. How this had been allowed to fall into arrears is not 
stated, but similar claims were made upon all the small 
heritors, and the sum being in each case pretty considerable, 
a feeling of soreness was created in the minds of those who 
had this claim unexpectedly sprung upon them. The Town 
Council gave instructions to negotiate, on the basis of the 
claim not reaching further back than .the division of the 
Muir in 1830, and of the interest being at the rate of 
three per cent, per annum. The Duke lodged a claim for 
225 15s 7d. At the same time, a counter claim was made 
by the Council against the Duke for arrears of feu-rents 
for lands held by His Grace from the town. After laboured 
negotiations, and a proposal to settle the respective claims 
by arbitration having fallen through owing to a failure to 
agree as to the terms of the submission, directions were given 
in 1863 to the Town's agent "to proceed with their action 
against the Duke of Buccleuch, leaving it to His Grace to 
constitute his counter claims as he may be advised." The 
Court of Session granted decree in favour of the town, finding 
it entitled to receive from the Duke one thousand, one 
hundred and fifty-six pounds, one shilling and eightpence 
sterling, being amount of rents and interest due to them. 
Agents' expenses amounted to 159. On the other hand, 
the Duke was successful in his plea against the town for 
stipend, the sum to which he was found entitled being 
110 5s lid. The expenses incurred were 338 14s 2d. 

The business of the town was now in a greatly improved 
condition. Their property was all in good order. The 
Council had procured a new Charter, the heavy litigation, 
which had caused them many an anxious thought for years, 
was now happily brought to a close, and they could therefore 
breathe more freely. 

7th October, 1868. The Council passed a minute expres- 
sing their abhorrence of the assassination of President 

History of Sanquhar. 237 

Lincoln, and their sympathy with the American people and 
Mrs Lincoln. They received, in return, from the United 
States Legation in London, a copy of the appendix to the 
diplomatic correspondence of the United States of 1865, as a 
testimonial of the grateful appreciation of that country. 

November, 1868. The introduction of a regular system of 
sewerage gave rise to a preliminary controversy of a very 
bitter kind. The subject is not a savoury one, and we will 
therefore not dwell upon it. The opposition was directed, 
not against the policy, but against the method of proceeding, 
in which the promoters of the scheme were not altogether 
prudent. At the next occurring election this was made a 
test question, the result being that the Common-sewer party, 
as it was called, were defeated, and the proposal received for 
a time its quietus. It was renewed some years later, under 
happier auspices, and Mr Gilchrist-Clark, for the Duke of 
Buccleuch, agreed most generously to co-operate in this 
desirable reform. He offered to construct the drain from the 
South U.P. Church, whence His Grace's property occupies 
one side of the street, to the townfoot, and thence to the river 
Nith, a system of filters, near the old castle, being also con- 
structed at His Grace's expense. This offer so much reduced 
the cost of the undertaking as to make it practicable for the 
Council to pay their part out of the common good of the 
burgh. In this way it was carried through at last with 
general consent. 

2nd September, 1872. We have seen what a large revenue 
was enjoyed by the Council in the early years of the present 
century from their lordship on coal, and ever since that time 
many of the inhabitants had cherished dreams of fabulous 
wealth still lying beneath the surface of their lauds, forgetful 
of the fact that, in its later stages when it was being worked, 
the coal had proved altogether unremunerative, and had 
been ultimately abandoned owing to the " troubles " which 
were encountered in the workings, and entailed no end of 
loss and disappointment. The belief in profitable mining 

238 History of Sanquhar. 

being still possible was given voice to in the Council in this 
year, and it was resolved to take the opinion of an expert on 
the subject. That opinion was favourable, and the field was 
advertised. Two offers were received. It was ultimately 
agreed that trial bores be put down by one of the offerers at 
the mutual expense of himself and the Council. The boring 
failed to find a workable coal, and operations ceased. The 
amount spent in this venture was about 100. A proposal 
was made to continue the work, and the sense of the 
inhabitants was taken by a plebiscite, when out of 150 
papers sent in only 34 voted for further boring. The journal 
of the bore was subsequently submitted to a skilled engineer 
in Edinburgh for his opinion. He advised the discontinuance 
of further search, whereupon the project was abandoned. 

March, 1879. Another unfortunate enterprise was that 
of attempting to convert the Green Loch into a meadow. 
The authors were very sanguine. So confident were they of 
success that they were content to propose the treatment of 
only about an acre at first. This proved the proverbial thin 
end of the wedge. Gradually the scheme developed till the 
whole area was included. And all this in face of the unani- 
mous opinion of several of the most prominent farmers in 
the district that the nature of the ground was such as to 
make its conversion into a meadow hopeless. The keen 
controversy that had arisen over this scheme was now embit- 
tered by the refusal of the dominant party in the Council to 
allow the curlers to darn the loch during the winter months, 
on the plea that to flood the ground would jeopardise the 
working of the drains, and, therefore, the success of the 
whole experiment. The curlers pleaded in vain that they 
had received guarantees from the Council that nothing would 
be done to limit their privileges. The ground upon which 
so much had been spent shewed no signs of becoming much 
more productive than it had previously been, and what 
between the dissatisfaction of the inhabitants over so much 
money wasted and the indignation of the curlers over the 

History of Sanquhar. 239 

loss of their ancient privileges, the Council had a hot time of 
it. With the view of pacifying the latter, various schemes 
were proposed for providing them with a substitute for the 
Green Loch, but they kept clamouring for their old loch, and 
prophesied failure to each successive proposal of the Council. 
The opinion of five farmers of the neighbourhood was asked 
by the Council as to whether the flooding of the loch by the 
curlers would injure the improvements. Their answer was 
that it would not, with the exception of the lime that had 
been laid on the ground. Determined not to yield, but 
conscious that the curlers had claims upon them which they 
could not ignore, the Council set to construct an embankment 
and sluice so as to enlarge the Black Loch, and spent a 
considerable sum in so doing. The attempt proved a failure, 
the area of that loch being only slightly enlarged for the 
time, and ultimately, in spite of the engineering works, it 
shrunk to its former size. With the annual election of Coun- 
cillors came the day of reckoning. The indictment included 
the boring for the coal as well as these agricultural experi- 
ments. Lively election meetings were held beforehand, and 
the election was keen and bitter. The old party was turned 
out. Some did not care to face the ordeal of election, and 
retired, and the bolder spirits who went to the poll were 
decisively defeated. Another stormy period of municipal 
history thus terminated. 

Still another question which caused some, excitement and 
bad feeling during this period was the powers of the Dean 
of Guild, which arose in connection with the unroofing of a 
small house at the Corseburn, which stood out on the line of 
street beyond those on either side of it. The Dean con- 
sidered that he was entitled to prevent the proprietor from 
improving the house, and increasing its stability ; in fact, 
that the roof having been taken off, the house should be 
taken back to the general line. He brought the matter 
before the Council for advice and direction, but they left it 
to him to act on his own discretion. Interdict was applied 

240 History of Sanqukar. 

for, but the Sheriff's decision was against the Dean. The 
respondent then raised a claim for damages. 

4<th April, 1881. A movement was now on foot for the 
erection of a new Public Hall by means of a Limited Liability 
Company, and a letter was sent by the Chairman of the 
Company asking the co-operation of the Town Council in 
the attainment of this desirable object. For some unaccount- 
able reason a large section of the Council looked askance at 
the movement, and strangely enough when the sense of the 
inhabitants was taken the majority approved of their attitude. 
The Council, thereupon, declined to have anything to do with 
it, the excuse being that the finances of the town had been 
brought into such a state that they were not in a position to 
subscribe. The resolution of the Council, whether prompted 
by duty or inclination, need not, however, have affected the 
support by the community individually of an object for which 
there had been a recognised necessity for many years. In 
truth, no public meeting or entertainment of any importance 
could now be held in the town owing to the withdrawal by 
the educational authorities of the use for such purposes of 
the schools. It was in these circumstances that the move- 
ment by gentlemen in the neighbourhood, aided by a few of 
the more enlightened of the townspeople, for the erection of 
a hall commensurate with the needs of the population and 
an architectural adornment to the town was received not 
only with apathetic indifference, but with a- thinly-veiled 
hostility, and only a very few subscriptions were obtained in 
the burgh. Happily the promoters were not discouraged by 
this antagonism. It was resolved to proceed by the forma- 
tion of a Limited Liability Company, with shares of 1 each. 
The matter was pushed with considerable energy, and at 
length nearly 1100 shares were subscribed. A most eligible 
site at the junction of the two roads behind the old Town 
Hall was obtained from the Duke of Buccleuch at a nominal 
rent, whereon a handsome hall, with ante-rooms and keeper's 
bouse attached, was erected. The building has an elegant 

History of Sanquhar. 241 

ornamental front looking down the street, and measures 80 
by 40 feet. The ground is enclosed by a parapet wall and 
iron railing. The Hall was opened on 16th January, 
1882, with a grand concert given by the Dumfries 
Philharmonic Society, conducted by Sheriff Hope. When 
all had been completed, it was found that about 500 would 
be required to clear the building of debt, and it was resolved 
to endeavour to raise this sum by a bazaar, which was held 
on the 22nd and 23rd October, 1885, and proved successful 
beyond all expectation. Contributions poured in from all 
quarters, and, when the opening took place by the Duke and 
Duchess of Buccleuch, the stalls were found to be loaded 
with materials of great richness and beauty. It was feared 
that these would never be disposed of, but a different spirit 
now animated the whole community. They had realised the 
great advantages the town would derive from this institution, 
and they made ample amends for their former apathy by 
co-operating in the most hearty manner to secure its success. 
The Hall was well filled both days, and on the evening of 
the last day of the bazaar it was literally packed with an 
eager crowd, by whom the stalls were effectually cleared. 
The drawings amounted to over 1130. The debt was dis- 
charged, various improvements on the original design were 
carried out, and the balance of 300 was invested. By a 
provision of the original prospectus of the Company, funds 
received, other than shares, rank as capital, and the dividends 
thereon are to be devoted to some local object of a public 
and unsectarian character ; so that whatever dividends may 
be declared will be divisible almost equally between the 
shareholders and the public. 

February, 1883. The propriety of having a fire-hose was 
now urged, and a proposal made to raise the amount by 
public subscription, this being a period of enforced economy 
on the part of the Council. The public, however, did not 
respond, and some time after, the funds of the Council 
having somewhat recovered, the hose was provided by them. 


242 History of Sanquhar. 

llth September, 1883. The Council subscribed five 
guineas to the National Memorial to the Duke of Buccleuch, 
and a further sum of 41 10s 6d was collected in the 
district by private subscription for the same object. 

22nd January, 1884. A new source of wealth in the 
Muir was now supposed to be discovered in the form of a 
seam of Fire-clay. A sample was submitted to a firm of 
potters for experiment, by whom a variety of goods was 
manufactured with it. Proposals were made by another 
firm for its working, but these were not satisfactory, and it 
proved a failure. 

6th December, 1889. These extracts are brought to a 
close with a notice of the adoption of the Police Act, and the 
subsequent application to the Sheriff for the extension of the 
boundaries of the burgh, which was granted. This important 
step was intimately connected with was the natural com- 
plement of another movement which had originated outside 
the Council, to procure building facilities from the Duke of 
Buccleuch and tfoe other landowners in the burgh and 
immediate neighbourhood. The first step in this direction 
was in 1878 when the Council, acting on the suggestion of 
certain inhabitants, petitioned the Duke on the subject, but 
nothing came of it. In the interim, however, the question 
had assumed a different aspect. It had grown from being a 
local till it had become a national question. The pent-up 
condition of great masses of the population in our large 
towns was engaging the attention of leading public men, and 
by-and-by the question was introduced into the House of 
Commons. The whole subject was discussed on various 
occasions, and it was seen that the views, not only of states- 
men, but also of the larger landowners, had undergone an 
important change. The majority of the latter had hitherto 
stood upon their abstract rights, and had shewn no great 
readiness to assist, but rather an inclination to discourage, 
the development of towns and the consequent increase of 
population ; but now their tone was altered. Local interest 
was stirred by the increase in recent years of summer visitors 

History of Sanquhar. 243 

to Sanquhar, and its growing popularity as a health resort. 
House accommodation was not sufficient to meet the 
demand, and there was no opportunity afforded for the 
erection of houses suited for those persons, natives and 
others, who might be disposed to take up their permanent 
residence here. A public meeting was called, at which the 
matter was discussed with great interest ; negotiations were 
opened with the Duke of Buccleuch, and His Grace received 
in November, 1889, a deputation, who laid the case before 
him. The Duke, to the satisfaction and delight of the 
deputation, declared his willingness to abandon the policy 
that had hitherto prevailed on the estate with regard to 
building facilities, and to grant perpetual feus. His Grace, 
in his remarks, shewed that he had an enlightened concep- 
tion of the duties of landowners in regard to the housing of 
the population on their estates, and more particularly of the 
working classes. The belief was fondly cherished that this 
interview marked a new departure, which would be fraught 
with the greatest benefit to the town, and steps were taken 
for forming a Building Society. Meanwhile, the conditions 
of the feus were anxiously awaited, and a keen feeling of 
disappointment prevailed when it was learned that these 
were of such a nature as to altogether exclude working men 
from the benefit of the scheme. The feu-duty was con- 
sidered, for such a place as Sanquhar, exorbitant, and the 
stipulations otherwise as to the obligations of feuars were of 
such a nature as to effectually frustrate His Grace's pro- 
fessed good intentions with regard to the dwellings of the 
poor, and to prevent anything more being heard of the move- 
ment. The prevailing opinion in the district, therefore, 
now is that in legislative interference alone lie the hopes in 
this connection of communities so situated as that of 

244 History of Sanquhar. 


The new or present Council House was erected in 1731. 
In that year " the Provost, Baillies, and Council considering 
that the Tolbooth of this Burgh is very insufficient and 
almost ruinous, and that it is absolutely necessary that a 
New Tolbooth be built," appointed a general meeting of all 
the Council, Deacons of Crafts, and Heritors within the 
Burgh to be held "against this day eight days, those that 
are within the Burgh to be present under the penalty of ten 
merks Scots." At this meeting " it was moved .that the 
situation of the said Tolbooth should be determined by 
publick vote, which was agreed to, and the vote stated 
accordingly. It was carried by a plurality of voices that the 
present situation was the most proper ; and, considering that 
some pretensions are made to the Volts below the said 
Tolbooth, and to the vacant ground at the end thereof, 
therefore they appoint all Pretenders to produce their rights 
that the same may be seen and considered how far they are 
good, and Recommend to the Provost to make a Draught of 
the said Tolbooth and steeple to be built at the end thereof." 

There is no record of the building of this first Tolbooth, 
but in all likelihood it was erected about the time when 
Sanquhar was created a Burgh of Barony, in the latter part 
of the fifteenth century ; for, so far back as 1682, a petition 
was presented to the Royal Convention of Burghs for a grant 
in aid of its repair. Nor do we know anything of its style of 
architecture ; but probably, like its successor, it was more 
notable for strength than elegance. 

The present Council House is a strong, substantial 
structure of two storeys, surmounted by a bell-tower. The 
walls of the tower are over three feet in thickness. Dr 
Simpson, in his History, quotes from a document, the nature 
of which, however, he does not specify, which records a 
resolution similar in terms to the above, and indicates that 
the town house was put up by the Duke of Queensberry at 
his own expense, on a plan submitted by his Grace. Now, 

History of Sanquhar. 245 

the authenticity of this document is doubtful, from the fact 
that the terms of the resolution which it contains, though 
they resemble, do not correspond with those found in the 
Council Minute Book. Further, it is dated 1735, and gives 
the name of Abraham Crichton of Carco as Provost, whereas 
Abraham Crichton of Carco was only Provost from May to 
September of 1734. Nor is there any trace of an acknow- 
ledgment, which, it is natural to suppose, would have been 
made, of the Duke's great service to the town if he did build 
the Council House. Be that as it may, there is no doubt 
that the stones were taken from the old Castle, and it is 
certainly a matter of regret that the Duke, and for that 
matter the people of Sanquhar, should have had so little 
antiquarian taste, and so little respect for the interesting 
historical associations of the ancient peel that they should 
thus have turned it into a quarry. 

Grose, in his "Antiquities," says "This Castle was the 
chief residence of the family of Queensberry. . . . His 
son not having the same predilection for the Castle it was 
neglected, and suffered to be stripped of its leaden roof, and 
its materials torn down for other buildings, so that in a few 
years not a trace of its former magnificence will remain. 
This is the more probable as its vicinity to the borough of 
Sanquhar makes its stone extremely convenient for erecting 
houses in that place." 

Not only was the stone for the Council House found at 
the Castle, but probably other material as well. At the 
repair of the dome of the tower some years ago, it was found 
that the covering of lead had belonged to another building, 
probably the Castle, where it had covered one of the towers 
or turrets. The lead had been found too small for the tower 
of the Council House, and had been enlarged by the addition 
of a piece several inches in depth, and of a different thickness, 
carried right round the bottom. 

The ground storey contains several vaulted chambers, 
which were used as the jail. Those in the centre, under the 

246 History of Sanquhar. 

tower, were entered first by an iron gate, then by an inner 
door, and, in the space between these, prisoners took air and 
exercise. The room on the south-west side is of more 
modern style, and is that of which the magistrates gave the 
free use for many years to a succession of schoolmasters. 
During the construction of the railway it was let to one of 
the contractors for an office, a door being broken out in the 
wall for his convenience, but to the disfigurement of the build- 
ing. On the same side there has been a door in the upper 
storey which has been built up. Both these doorways now 
do duty as windows. Most of the windows were protected 
with stanchions, but these were removed in 1846. The upper 
storey is reached by a double stair, which would appear to 
have been unprotected for a considerable time, for in 1808 the 
Council resolved to repair the stair, "and to fix an iron rail- 
ing thereon" From the vestibule access is had to the three 
rooms, that to the right being the place of public meeting, 
where the periodical small debt courts were held, and which 
is now used as a recreation room. To the left is the Council 
chamber, which contains the library, and is used as a reading 
room. In the centre is the Clerk's chamber, so called because in 
it were kept the records of the Burgh. In 1781 the Magistrates 
and Council made arrangements for fitting up the Clerk's 
chamber with doors and shelves, and it is stated that " the 
most part of the Records is this day Lodged in the said 
Chamber in the Press with the Iron gate and shelves in 
which there is three Locks and in the other Press with the 
wooden door one Lock which is ordered for the Dean of Guild 
for Keeping weights and other necessaries, which Key he is 
to keep, and the three keys upon the Iron door one of them 
Lodged with the Provost, and the two other keys one with 
each of the eldest Baillies." 

From the corner of the vestibule springs the narrow stair 
leading to the clock and bell and to another jail a room 
under the roof, which contained two beds. This room was 
lighted by a sky-light, which was not fastened. The more 

History of Sanquhar. 247 

daring of the prisoners, therefore, had no difficulty in going 
in and out as they pleased. Being often young fellows of 
the town who had got into a scrape, they had no temptation 
to make their escape, for, unless they left the town, they 
would only have been apprehended again ; but they contrived 
to lighten their confinement by nightly escapades, for, 
clambering on to the roof, they would work their way round 
to the back, where a smithy stood close to the wall, by which 
they easily reached the ground, and spent the greater part 
of the night with their friends, or perhaps their sweethearts, 
returning to their place before daylight, nobody being a 
penny the worse or the wiser. An instance of the kind is 
related in an old magazine, where we read that " the beadle 
of the parish of Durisdeer was imprisoned in the Sanquhar 
jail for a small debt about three o'clock in the morning, and 
made his exit the same afternoon through the window of his 
apartment. At dusk the same evening he returned, and 
attempted to effect an entrance through the aperture by 
which he had made his escape, but not rinding that practi- 
cable, on account of a huge bundle of blankets he had lashed 
to his back, he waited upon the jailer, and requested the 
favour of him to throw open the portals for his re-admission, 
at the same time assigning as a reason for taking French 
leave in the earlier part of the day ' that the nichts waur 
grown gey cauld noo, an' he thocht he wauldna' be muckle 
misst, till he steppit his waas hame, an' brocht up twa three 
pair of blankets to keep him warm at e'en.' " Other 
prisoners, who were not nimble enough for such an escapade, 
had the rigour of their situation relieved through an ingeni- 
ous method by which, with the co-operation of their friends 
outside, they managed to secure a measure of the comforts of 
life. The prisoners do not appear to have been searched 
on their committal, and it was no uncommon thing for 
them to be provided with a stout string, which they let 
down through the window and over the slates to the ground, 
where friends were in readiness to attach a basket or a bottle, 

248 History of Sanquhur. 

or both, and thus they had a jolly enough time of it ; indeed, 
some of them used to say they were never so well off as when 
they were in durance vile. 

There was also, as has been said, a jail on the ground floor. 
If the upper jail was a free and easy institution, this was a 
tight enough place with its heavy oaken door arid grated 
windows. On one occasion Henry Wright was its inmate. 
Henry was a mischievous dog. He set fire to some straw 
that was in the place, but the fire spread beyond his 
calculations, and he was in imminent danger of being burnt 
or suffocated. Smoke was seen issuing from the window, 
and Henry's face, white with terror, and his voice calling 
loudly for help, speedily drew .a crowd of people, and he 
was rescued. He proved in after life a dreadful pest, wan- 
dering up and down the country from London to the north 
of Scotland, and if a single native of Sanquhar were settled 
in any town, Henry would contrive to find him out. Nobody 
ever could understand how, even in the labyrinths of London, 
he would pursue his search till he had succeeded. And 
Henry was " none blate." No matter though it had been the 
most elegant mansion in the city, he would march boldly up 
to the front door and pursue his inquiry. His mission, of 
course, was a begging one. Everybody served him instantly 
so as to get the ragged wretch away, and he knew it, and, 
therefore, the more aristocratic the locality so much the 
better for Henry's purpose. He had an iron constitution, 
which he wasted in a long life of continuous debauchery. In 
his later years he cost the parish hundreds of pounds in relief 
afforded to him in various towns where he had broken down. 
Time after time was he removed to the poorhouse, but his 
free, vagabond spirit could not brook the discipline and 
restraints of such a place, and so soon as he could crawl he 
was off. He struggled hard to keep on the road, but old age 
and infirmities compelled him to surrender at last, and, 
ultimately his mental faculties giving way, he was removed 
to the Asylum at Dumfries, where he died three years ago. 

History of Sanquhar. 249 

In the year 1857, the Council erected a new clock and 
bell in the Tower at a cost of about 100, to which the Duke 
of Buccleuch subscribed 25. 

In 1860, the old smithy which stood behind the Hall, and 
by which the prisoners from the upper jail descended, was 
removed. The smithy was long the workshop of John 
Hyslop, " the Convener," as he was called. The boundary 
of the burgh ran through between the hearth and the study, 
and so it came that the Convener could, as he said, stand 
with one foot within and the other without the burgh, heat 
his iron without and hammer it within without moving from 
the spot. 


A bridge over the river Nith, opposite the town of 
Sanquhar, has existed from time immemorial. It is quite 
natural to expect this, for Sanquhar was in the natural 
line of route between the eastern and western sides of 
the country. The glens up Crawick and Mennock gave 
access to the valleys of the Clyde and Tweed and all the east 
country, while, on the western side, there was a mountain 
path over the Whing, leading to the head of the valley of 
the Ken, which formed a gateway to the whole territory of 
Galloway. A bridge at Sanquhar over the river was there- 
fore all that was necessary to complete the communication, 
and, though the passenger traffic could not be great in a 
thinly-populated district, there would be a large traffic in 
cattle and sheep along this route. There is a drove road 
still in existence, which forms a very direct communication 
between east and west. Mention is made in the Charter of 
the Burgh in 1598 of a bridge, which must then have been 
in existence. This document grants to the Provost, Bailies, 
Councillors, community, and inhabitants of the burgh, and 
their successors for ever, " the bridge of the said Burgh." 
Again, the bridge is mentioned in an Act of the Scottish 


250 History of Sanquliar. 

Parliament, passed in 1661, which sets forth its importance 
to the whole of the lowlands of Scotland. The Act runs as 
follows : 

" A.D. 1661. Act in favours of the Burgh of Sanquhar Our Sovereign 
Lord and Estates of Parliament, takeing to the consideration a supplication 
presented to them by Johne Williamson, Commissioner for the Burgh of 
Sanquhar, in name and behalff of the said Burgh, Shewing that the said 
Burgh of Sanquhar, being situat and builded upon the Water of Nyth, ane 
verie great considerable river, which in the Winter tyme is nowayes passable 
at the beist dureing the tyme of any raine or storme. The bridge which 
wes therupon being now totallie fallen down and ruined, which is very 
prejudiciall not only to the said burgh, but also to the haill cuntrie neir 
the saime, and all others who have occasion to passe that way, who sum- 
tyme will be forced to stay three or four dayes er they can passe over the 
said water. And the said burgh, thro the calamities of the tyme and 
great sufferings they have had, are now redacted to such povertie as they 
are noways able to build up the said bridge, which so much concernss the 
weill. of the said burgh and the publict good of that cuntrie. And, there- 
for, craveing ane recommendation to the severalle presbetries within this 
kingdom upon this side of fforth (the river Forth) for help and supplie for 
building up the said bridge, which so much concerncs the weill of the said 
burgh and all that Cuntrie. And also seeing that such a contribution will 
be unconsiderable for so great a work, therefor also craveing ane certaine 
small custome to be payed at the said bridge for such years and off such 
persones and goods as should be thought fit. And having considered ane 
testificate of verie many Noblemen and Gentlemen in the shire and circum- 
jacent bounds, Testifieing the necessity and conveniencie of the said bridge, 
and haveing heard the said Johne Williamson thereanent, who in name of 
the said burgh, had undertaken the building of the same bridge within the 
space of two years. And haveing also considered the report of the Com- 
missioners of Parliament appointed for bills and tradeing (to whom the 
said mater was referred) thereanent, His Majestic, with advice and consent 
of the said Estates of Parliament, Have ordained and ordaines ane contribu- 
tion and Voluntar collection to be made and ingathered within all parodies, 
both in burgh and landward, on the South side of the water of fforth, for 
building of the said bridge. And that either personally or parochially, as 
the Magistrats of the said burgh shall desire. And hereby Seriously 
Recommends to and require all Noblemen, Gentlemen, Magistrats and 
Ministers of the law and gospell, within the said bounds, to be assisting to 
the said Magistrats of Sanquhar for so good a work, and for ane liberall 
Contribution for that effect. And seeing that it is expected that the fore- 
said collection will not be so considerable as to defray the charges of so 
great a work, Therfor His Majestic, with advice and consent foresaid, hath 
given and granted, and hereby give and grant, to the said burgh, ane 

History of Sanquhar. 251 

custome to be lifted by them, or any other they shall appoint for uplifting, 
thairof, for the space of Twentie-seven yeers after the building thairof, at 
the rates following viz., for ilk footman or woman, two jpennies Scots, for 
ilk nolt beast or single horse, four pennies, for ilk horse with his load or 
rydder, six pennies Scots, And for ilk sheip two pennies Scots money. 
And ordaines all passengers whatsomever to answer, obay, and make pay- 
ment of the said custome, at the rates abovewrin, to the said burgh, and 
their collectors thairof, dureing the space above-mentioned, but ony 
obstacle or objection whatsomever. With power to the said Magistrats 
to put this Act to dew execution, conforme to the tenor thairof in all 

It was across this old bridge, referred to in the recited 
Act as then " totallie fallen down and ruined," that the 
unfortunate Queen (Mary) had been conducted by Lord 
Herries in her flight from the disastrous battle of Langside 
on 13th May, 1568. Tradition has it that she rested in 
Lord Crichton's town house in Sanquhar, a two-storey build- 
ing with circular stair behind, the site of which is now occu- 
pied by the Royal Bank. It was a hurried flight, and the 
Queen, in a letter, complains that she had " suffered injuries, 
calumnies, captivity, hunger, cold, heat, flying without 
knowing whether fourscore or twelve miles across the 
country without once pausing to light and than lay on the 
hard ground having only sour milk to drink and oatmeal to 
eat without bread, passing three nights with the owls " 
truly a lengthy catalogue of woes. Having crossed the 
bridge, she was conducted over the Whing, continuing her 
flight by the Ken and Dee to the sanctuary of Dundrennan 
Abbey, on the coast of Kirkcudbright, whence she effected 
her escape into England, never to return. 

The new bridge, for the erection of which the above Act 
made provision, fell in the course of time into disrepair. It 
crossed the river at the foot of the brae which leads from 
the town round the washing green, and a portion of the 
abutment on the Sanquhar side still remains. It lies 
between two thorn trees, and is concealed from view by 
brushwood, but when the rubbish and undergrowth are 
cleared away the foundation is easily discoverable. 

252 History of Sanquhar. 

A. foot-bridge was erected by the late Mr Williamson of 
Barr about the year 1810 ; and it is interesting to note that, 
only a few months ago, a person died in Sanquhar who, 
when a boy, fell accidentally from this foot-bridge into the 
river, and was rescued by a dog. Subsequently, when the 
coal on Drumbuie farm came to be worked, a wooden bridge 
for carts was erected. There was an iron tramway to guide 
the carts over, and a road was made leading down from the 
turnpike, which is still called " The Coal Road." This 
wooden bridge fell into a dangerous state, and in the year 
1855 the present handsome structure was erected by the 
Road Trustees on a site about fifty yards farther up the 
river, thus cutting off the awkward turning of the road as it 
approached the bridge. The key-stone of the bridge was 
laid by Miss Otto, Newark. 



jLL through the long period embraced in the six- 
teenth, seventeenth, and the first half of the 
eighteenth centuries, the social condition of the 
people underwent little or no change. They had 
maintained a gallant and successful struggle against the 
power of their Southern neighbours. " How heroic," it has 
been justly said, " was the war of independence ! Its true 
majesty consists not in a chance triumph like Bannockburn, 
but in the ardent and sustained devotion to an ideal, in the 
unfailing courage with which the nation arose again, and 
lived and fought after disasters that might well have been 
mortal, as they seemed, in the unbroken unity of purpose 
that compacted all ranks and all conditions o? men into one 
vigorous, self-sufficing organism." But though they had 
thus, by a self-sacrificing gallantry which has attracted the 
admiration of all succeeding generations, maintained their 
country's liberties, and though the principle of freedom in 
the abstract was well enough understood by them, still, dur- 
ing the period that succeeded, down to the middle of the 
eighteenth century, personal freedom was a privilege of 
which the common people throughout the country knew 
little or nothing. They had won their country not for them- 
selves, but for the chieftains and lairds. They had success- 
fully resisted the English yoke, only to fall under the yoke 
of petty tyrants of their own flesh and blood. These barons, 
armed with feudal power, were ignorant and over-bearing, 

254 History of Sanquhar. 

tyrannical and cruel. The Government was not yet strong 
enough to keep them under control, and the people who 
lived within their domains were entirely at their mercy. They 
lived in strongholds, whose grim walls, grated windows, and 
iron doors bore testimony to the fact that it was on brute 
force alone they relied for the maintenance of their position. 
Within these castles or keeps they led a comparatively idle 
life, and sallied forth at intervals, followed by their half- 
naked, half-starved menials, to plunder a less watchful 
neighbour, or to execute reprisals for a raid perpetrated upon 
themselves on some previous occasion. Perhaps the last 
instance of these sanguinary encounters that occurred 
between neighbouring lairds in this part of the country is 
that which was fought out at" the Moss of Knockonie, which 
is a portion of the farm of Coshogle, and, being in the 
ancient parish of Kirkbride, was annexed, as is elsewhere 
explained, to the parish of Sauquhar, the remainder of 
Coshogle being added to the parish of Durisdeer. The 
following quaintly worded account of the affray is derived 
from Pitcairn's Letters : 

" A small private war between the lairds of Drumlanrig and Cashogle 
came to a bearing this day (May 12 1621), at the Moss of Knockonie. 
This moss belonged to David Douglas, brother to Drumlanrig, but Cashogle 
had always been allowed to raise peats from it for his winter fuel. The 
two lairds having fallen into a coldness, Cashogle would not ask this any 
longer as a favour, but determined to take it as a right. Twice his 
servants were interrupted in their operations, so he himself came one day 
to the moss, with his son Robert and thirty-six men or thereby, armed 
with swords, hagbuts, lances, corn-forks, and staves. Hereupon the laird 
of Mouswald, a brother of the proprietor of the moss (who was absent), 
sent a friend to remonstrate, and to urge upon Cashogle the propriety of 
his asking the peats ' out of love,' instead of taking them in contempt. 
The Cashogle party returned only contemptuous answers, ' declaring they 
would cast their peats there, wha wald, wha wald not.' Some further re- 
monstrances being ineffectual, Drumlanrig himself, accompanied with 
friends and servants, came upon the scene, shewing that he had the royal 
authority to command Cashogle to desist. But even this reference failed 
to induce submission. At length the laird of Mouswald, losing temper, 
exclaimed ' Ye are ower pert to disobey the king majesty's charge : 
quickly pack you and begone.' 

History of Sanqu It ar. 255 

"'Immediately, ane of Cashogle's servants, with ane great kent 
(staff), strak Captain Johnston behind his back, twa great straiks 
upon the head, whilk made him fall dead to the ground with 
great loss of blood. Then Robert Douglas (son of Cashogle) pre- 
sentit ane bended hagbut within three ells to the Laird of Drum- 
lanrig's breast, whilk at the pleasure of God misgave. Imme- 
diately thereafter, Robert of new morsit the hagbut, and presented 
her again to him, whilk shot and missed him at the pleasure of God. 
Robert Dalyell, natural son to the Laird of Dalyell, was struck through 
the body with ane lance, who cried that he was slain ; and some twa or 
three men was strucken through their clothes with lances, sae that the haill 
company thought that they had been killed, and then thought it was time 
for them to begin to defend themselves ; whereupon Robert Douglas and 
three or four of his folk being hurt, was put to flight, and in flying, the 
said Robert fell, where the Laird of Drumlanrig chancit to be nearest him ; 
wha, notwithstanding the former offer Robert made to him with the hagbut, 
not only spared to strike him with his awn hands, but likewise discouraged 
all the rest under pain of their lives to steir him. One of the Cashogle 
party was slain." 

As Pitcairn justly remarks, such an occurrence as this in 
the South of Scotland, and amongst men of rank and pro- 
perty, shews strikingly that the wild blood of the country 
was yet by no means quieted. There was a mutual prosecu- 
tion between the parties; but they contrived to make up the 
quarrel between themselves out of court, and private satis- 
faction being, as usual, deemed enough, the law interfered 
no further. 

The barons took no interest either in the improvement of 
their lands or of the condition of the people. They recognised no 
duties or responsibilities as pertaining to their position ; their 
sole concern was in the maintenance of their rights and the 
gratification of their unbridled passions. Under such a state 
of things, the condition of the common people can be imagined. 
As we have said, they enjoyed not the smallest degree of 
personal liberty, and had been, by centuries of oppression, 
well schooled into unquestioning obedience to the will of 
their tyrannical rulers, or we might say their owners, for, 
according to the feudal system that was universal, the people 
were practically slaves. In the burghs, it is true, they 
enjoyed in some degree the forms of self-government, but it 

2o6 History of Sanquliar. 

was more in form than in substance, for the direction of 
municipal affairs was effectually controlled by some territorial 
magnate, and thus, for long after it was created a royal burgh, 
Sanquhar was dominated by the Crichton family. While 
the lives of the citizens might not be jeopardised by their 
rulers, as those outside were at the hands of the barons, they 
were subjected to numerous petty restrictions in such matters 
as the articles of food, the price of labour, and other social 
interests, in which the authorities had every countenance in 
the sumptuary laws of the Scottish Parliament. In some 
instances, the people were debarred from buying and selling 
with those who had incurred the displeasure of the authori- 
ties an early example of that terrible weapon of social 
persecution, the boycot. 

An Englishman, passing through Dumfriesshire in 1704, 
sums up his impression of the condition of the people by the 
remark that " had Cain been born a Scotchman, his punish- 
ment would have been not to wander about but to stay at 
home ;" and the Rev. Alexander Carlyle, on a visit to the 
county in 1733, says " The face of the country was par- 
ticularly desolate, not having reaped any benefit from the 
Union of the Parliaments ; nor was it recovered from the 
effects of that century of wretched government which pre- 
ceded the Revolution." This state of things continued with- 
out mitigation down to the year 1748. 

The peaceable settlement, of the country was retarded by 
the Rebellions of 1715 and 1745, but these were only the 
faint flickerings of a waning cause before its final extinction. 
These rebellions shewed how deeply attached part of the 
Scottish people were at heart to the Stuarts, who had occu- 
pied the throne for several centuries, and had proved either 
feeble and vacillating, totally wanting in governing capacity, 
and too weak to cope with a set of haughty and turbulent 
nobles, or self-willed and cruel, paying little regard to the 
just and necessary liberties of the people. These insurrec- 
tionary movements were, however, supported chiefly in the 

History of Sanquhar. 257 

north country, the lowlands remaining true to the Revolution 
Settlement. It has to be borne in mind that the principles 
of the Reformation had not penetrated the Highlands to any 
great extent, and, therefore, the Highlanders had a religious 
as well as a political attachment to a race who, whatever 
their varying fortunes, and however false and perfidious they 
might have proved as rulers, had at least been faithful and 
constant in their adherence to the Roman Catholic religion. 
Though there were some Papists and Jacobites in Nithsdale 
and Galloway in 171 o, the great body of the people were 
loyal to the reigning Sovereign. Kirkcudbright or Loch 
Ryan had been mentioned as a likely landing place for the 
Chevalier, and measures were devised to meet such an 
emergency. Major Aikman was despatched from Edinburgh 
for that purpose. He reviewed the fencible men of the 
upper ward of Nithsdale on Marjory Muir, in the parish of 
Closeburn, and afterwards had a meeting at Closeburn with 
the leading men of the district. Arrangements were made 
" 1. That each parish be modelled into companies, and 
proper officers chosen to that effect. 2. That each parish 
exercise twice or thrice every week. 3. That upon the first 
advice of the Pretender landing, each parish should meet by 
themselves in some convenient place, there to concert what 
is proper to be done, and it was earnestly desired that they 
should bring their best arms and ammunition along with 
them to that place. 4. That upon the first notice of the 
Pretender's arrival at Loch Ryan, Kirkcudbright, or in the 
Firth of Leith, Sanquhar should be the rendezvous for the 
western shires ; together with other measures. And lastly, 
That the friends in every particular district fall upon ways 
or means to make the above said particulars effectual." 
Struthers' Hist. The first blood shed in this quarter, we 
learn from Rae, was at Penpont, where one Bell of Minsca, a 
Jacobite gentleman, who had insulted the guards, and refused 
to stand when the sentries required him, was shot by one of 
them through the leg. This was about the end of July, 


258 History of Sanquhar. 

1715. " The gentlemen and people in the upper parts of 
Nithsdale met at Penpont, where they rendezvou'd four 
hundred men, who performed their Exercises in Battalia, 
and fired all by Platoons, to the satisfaction of the best 
judges then present. Besides these, there were upwards of 
an hundred horsemen." Bae's Hist. In October a body of 
the rebels was stationed at Moffat, and warning was sent 
by Lord-Justice-Clerk Cockburn to Dumfries that it was 
their intention to attack that town by surprise. They broke 
up their camp at Moffat, and marched straight for Dumfries, 
their intention being, it would appear, to deliver their attack 
on Sabbath, which was the Sacrament Sabbath, thinking 
that on that day the community would be most completely 
off their guard. But on their arrival within, it is said, a 
mile and a half of the town, they learnt that the people had 
been apprised of their coming, and had made every possible 
preparation. A considerable force had assembled, for notice 
of the rebels' movements had been despatched to the whole 
surrounding country, and the greatest alacrity was shewn in 
answering to the call. Amongst others was " A braham 
Creighton of Garland, Provost of Sanquhar, with a com- 
pany of foot from thence, who being informed that the 
enemy had invested the town, mounted themselves on 
country horses, for the greater expedition, and arrived at 
Dumfries on Friday." The rebels, finding that Dumfries 
could not be, as they had hoped, taken by surprise, but was- 
in a position to make a sturdy resistance, retired and took 
up quarters at Ecclefechan. There was no one with proper 
authority to direct their movements, and they marched and 
countermarched in the most aimless fashion. The English 
gentlemen declared for an advance into England, saying that 
they had information from their friends that a favourable 
reception and aid awaited them ; but the Scottish nobles 
were opposed to this as, in their opinion, rushing on certain 
destruction. In this condition of matters, with the leaders 
quarrelling among themselves, some advising one plan of 

History of Sanquhar. 259 

campaign and others another, the disaffection spread to the 
men, among whom the same divergence of opinion was 
manifested ; and when a move was made in the direction of 
Lougtown, the Scots were displeased, and the Earl of Wintoun 
drew off with a part of his troop. Four hundred of the 
Highlanders, too, refused to march, and deserted the main 
body, intending to return to their own country, taking their 
route through the moors by Lockerbie. They split into two 
parties at Airikstone (Ericstane), some going through Craw- 
ford moor towards Douglas, and the remainder down the Vale 
of the Clyde towards Lamington. The latter were captured 
by a body, both horse and foot, assembled by the Laird of 
Lamington and others, and were imprisoned in the church 
there. The miners of Hopetoun (the men of Leadhills) and of 
Wanlockhead intercepted the other party, and made prisoners 
of sixty of them, the last stragglers being taken near 

We need not pursue the subject of the rebellion further, 
being only concerned with what relates to the local history. 

In the retreat from Derby during the rising of 1745, Prince 
Charlie, when his army had crossed the Esk, divided it into 
two parts ; one portion he sent by way of Ecclefechan and 
Moffat, and the remainder, which he led in person, continued 
their retreat by Annan and Dumfries. After leaving the 
latter town he stayed at Drumlanrig Castle, of which he took 
possession for the night, the Duke of Queensberry being 
absent. He occupied the state-bed, while a number of his 
men lay upon straw in the great gallery. Before departing 
next day, it is to be regretted that the Highlanders took 
that opportunity of expressing their love of King James by 
slashing with their swords a series of portraits representing 
King William, Queen Mary, and Queen Anne, which hung 
in the grand stair-case a present from the last of these 
sovereigns to James, Duke of Queensberry, in consideration 
of his services at the Union. (Chambers' Hist, of the 
Rebellion.) The pictures have been carefully restored, but 

260 History of Sanqukar. 

they still bear the marks of this contemptible act of Prince 
Charlie's men. The line of retreat taken was up the Pass 
of Dalveen into Clydesdale, their design being to march upon 
Glasgow. There was, till recently, in Sanquhar a small 
military drum known as " Prince Charlie's Drum." Its 
story was that it was stolen from a party as they rested while 
passing through the town. This was not on the line of 
march, but, in all probability, the party were deserters, for, 
after such a lengthened retreat, the army must have fallen 
into a broken and dispirited condition ; and while the High- 
landers, moved by the instinct of mutual support and pro- 
tection, might hold together so long as they were in a strange 
country, others who had no such motive, and felt that the 
cause in which they had been engaged was now hopeless, 
would drop off from time to time, and the road up Nithsdale 
would afford to such a tempting opportunity. The story at any 
rate was universally believed in the beginning of the century, 
and has been accepted ever since as authentic. The drum was 
kept in the garret of the old " doon-the-gate " (South U.P.) 
Manse. When the house was taken down this relic fell into 
the hands of a man living near by, whose son sold it a few 
years ago to a collector of curiosities for the paltry sum of 1. 
It was exhibited lately at the Military Exhibition held in 
Edinburgh, being lent for that purpose by his representatives. 
These rebellions gave much trouble to the government, 
and seriously retarded the material and social progress of 
the country. At the same time, they were not an unmixed 
evil, for they afforded a reason, and a very sufficient reason, 
for stripping the heads of clans and feudal lords of their 
powers of criminal and other jurisdiction which vitally 
affected the lives and liberties of the people. The admini- 
stration of justice up to this period had been simply the 
expression of the will, the arbitrary will of too often a petty 
and vindictive tyrant, or the haphazard decision of one Avho, 
though striving to exercise his powers honestly and conscien- 
tiously, had had no training whatever for the adequate 

History of Sanquhar. 261 

discharge of such important functions, and had his judgment 
perverted by personal or friendly interests. The country was 
slowly but surely emerging from a period during which the 
privilege and power of government, which naturally inhered 
in the Crown, had been usurped by these feudal lords who, 
each within his own territory, held absolute authority, and 
paid but the scantiest respect to the legitimate government 
of the kingdom. The country generally had been kept in a 
disturbed state for centuries by the political ambitions of 
nobles and barons, sometimes acting singly, sometimes in 
combination, encouraged by the fact that, as too often hap- 
pened, the King was either a minor or had not sufficient 
firmness and force of character to cope with and keep in 
subjection these turbulent lords. In the border district 
this state of matters was aggravated by the reiving raids, 
which were almost constantly recurring between neighbour- 
ing lairds. Holding, as we have said, absolute authority 
over their vassals and retainers, they involved the whole 
population in mutual plunder and strife. Such a state of 
things was incompatible with the advance of civilisation, and 
the time had arrived when strong measures might, as one 
writer puts it, be taken for "ameliorating generally the insti- 
tutions of the Scottish people, and thus disarming them of 
their ignorant hostility and self-destroying rancour, which, 
on every trivial occasion, they were ready to put forth at the 
call of their interested, capricious, and selfish superiors who, 
happening to be born lairds, supposed themselves entitled to 
their affection, the fruit of all their toil, and the last drop of 
their blood whensoever they were pleased to require it." 

An Act for vesting in the Crown the estates of such of the 
lords as had been mixed up in the traitorous rebellion of '45 
was therefore followed immediately by a general Act, appli- 
cable to the whole kingdom, for the abolition of these 
heritable jurisdictions. Notwithstanding, however, the 
extent to which these powers had been abused, the holders 
were treated bv the State with the utmost consideration, and 

262 History of Sanquhar. 

as such powers were regarded as private rights vested in certain 
families, and secured to them by the treaty of Union, com- 
pensation was given for their surrender. Among those who 
sent in their claims we find that the Duke of Queensberry, 
who had purchased the barony of Sanquhar, and with it the 
sheriffship of Dumfries, from Lord Crichton, claimed as Sheriff 
6000, his whole claim amounting to 14,500 ; but it was cut 
down to 6621. This salutary Act came into force in the 
year 1 748. It was, as might have been anticipated, violently 
opposed, but the miserable end of the recent rebellion had 
taught the lesson that the days were past w'hen the authority 
of Parliament and of the Executive Government could be 
successfully defied. The measure was sullenly acquiesced in, 
but it proved the most beneficial for Scotland of any that had 
been passed since the Union. By it "all heritable jurisdictions 
of justiciary, and all regalities and heritable baillieries, and 
all heritable constabularies, other than the office of high con- 
stable of Scotland, and all stewartries, being parts only of 
shires or counties, and all sheriffships and deputy sheriffships 
of districts, belonging unto, or possessed or claimed by any 
subject or subjects, and all jurisdictions, powers, authorities, and 
privileges thereunto, appurtenant or annexed, or dependant 
thereupon, are abrogated, taken away,totallis dissolved and ex- 
tinguished." These jurisdictions, powers, and authorities were 
henceforth vested in the Court of Session, Court of Justiciary 
at Edinburgh, the Judges in the several Circuits, and the 
Courts of the Sheriffs and Stewards of the shires or counties, 
and others of the King's Courts respectively. The heritable 
sherifFships were resumed and annexed to the Crown. All 
judges were by this Act required to qualify by taking the 
oaths to Government (the same provision applied, it will be 
observed, to Town Councils), with all procurators, writers, 
agents, or solicitors practising in any of the Scottish Courts. 
By this important measure the administration of justice, the 
purity and efficiency of which lies at the very root of a 
nation's well-being, ceased to be the subject of private 

History of Sanquliar. 263 

property, and was transferred to a body of officials, appointed 
by and responsible to the Crown alone, trained to the pro- 
fession of the law, and free from local or personal 
influences. For the first time could it be said that the 
inhabitants of Scotland were free men. It was some time 
before all classes of the people could accommodate them- 
selves to the new order of things, but they gradually came to 
realise that old things had passed away, and that now they 
were free to practise those arts of peace and industry which 
were in harmony with a slowly but steadily advancing 

The Union, which ultimately was destined to operate to 
the great advantage of the poorer country, had for a time 
rather the opposite effect. The more active and enter- 
prising of her sons were drawn across the border by the 
wider field for the display of their talents, where, engaging 
in business of various kinds, they, by the exercise of the 
qualities and virtues which distinguish the Scottish people, 
speedily amassed considerable fortunes. Appreciating the 
advantages of a more advanced civilisation, and having, 
during their residence in the richer country, naturally 
acquired different social habits, they preferred to remain 
where the state of society was more congenial to their 
improved tastes. Others, encouraged by their successes, 
followed, and thus Scotland was, for a period, deprived of the 
very men who could have most effectually worked out her 
salvation from a condition of poverty and indolence. With a 
true patriotism, the great Forbes and others strove hard to 
develop the industries of their native land, and were 
wonderfully successful. The linen trade, and also the fish- 
eries, were those upon the extension of which they princi- 
pally expended their energies. The records of the Convention 
of Royal Burghs bear ample testimony to the success with 
which their patriotic efforts were crowned. In 1727, there 
were stamped 84,000 yards of linen ; while in 1783, the 
quantity had increased to no less than 9,000,000 yards. In 

264 History of Sanquhar. 

the chapter on the weaving industry, it is noted that it has 
been found impossible to ascertain with any degree of certainty 
when it began in Sauquhar, but it is extremely probable 
that it contributed its quota, however small that might be, 
to this national manufacture of linen, for, when it is considered 
that in the early years of this century there were already 
over 100 weavers in the town, it is almost certain that 
weaving had been going on for a considerable time prior to 
that period. 

The latter half of the eighteenth century was therefore the 
time when, the disturbing effects of the rising of 1745 having 
subsided, the country settled down to the enjoyment of an 
era of steadily increasing prosperity. Prosperity was so far, 
however, only a comparative term, and we find that for long 
after this date the country was subject to ever-recurring 
periods of want bordering sometimes on famine. The diet 
of the people in country parts was of a plain though whole- 
some kind, made up entirely of the native products of the 
soil. For breakfast there was oatmeal porridge, which was 
served with milk or as often whey. Dinner was usually 
made up of mutton broth, followed by the boiled mutton 
with potatoes ; and for supper, potatoes (often beaten and 
called " champers ") with milk, or porridge and milk again. 
This was the daily fare of the inhabitants in small towns as 
well, except that the dinner had not the advantage of the variety 
enjoyed in country houses, but all three meals consisted of oat- 
meal, potatoes, and milk. One can see at a glance, therefore, 
how completely their condition was dependent on the home 
harvest, at a time when the baleful Corn Laws were in full 
operation. These laws at first were directed against the expor- 
tation of corn, for in those days more corn was, as a rule, 
grown than sufficed for the wants of the people, but gradually, 
by the increase of the population, the exporting of corn alto- 
gether ceased, and the restrictions were applied to the 
importation of bread stuffs. The agricultural interest was 
sufficiently powerful in the country, and the representative 

History of Sanquhar. 265 

rights of the people in the government were sufficiently 
ignored to permit of the maintenance of laws of the kind, 
the design of which, of course, was to protect the interests of 
landowners, but the certain effect of which was to artificially 
raise the price of the necessaries of life. The price at which 
importation was allowed was altered from time to time, and 
ultimately the prohibitory laws operated by a sliding scale, 
so adjusted that the price of bread-stuffs was effectually 
maintained at a very high figure. The home price of course 
varied with the character of the harvest, and whenever a bad 
harvest, or worse still, a succession of bad harvests, 
was experienced the inevitable result ensued. Grain 
rose to famine prices, entailing upon the working classes 
suffering of no ordinary kind. It is observable that, in this 
country, the weather frequently comes in cycles that bad 
seasons seldom come singly. At such periods the population 
were, particularly in country districts, brought almost to the 
verge of starvation, and diseases, attributable to the want of 
sufficient nourishment, were common among the poorer 
classes. A public writer, speaking of a period of this kind 
says " Meal became so scarce that it was at two shillings a 
peck, and many could not get it. It was not then with 
many ' Where will we get siller ?' but ' Where will we get 
meal for siller ?' I have seen, when wheat was sold in 
markets, women wringing their hands, crying ' How shall 
we go home and see our children die of hunger ? They 
have got no meat these two days, and we have nothing to 
give them ?' " The harrowing details which he gives of the 
sufferings of the poor people remind us of the horrors of a 
prolonged siege, and all that it appears the authorities could 
think of for the mitigation of the wide-spread distress was 
to fix maximum prices, and ordain a solemn fast, on account 
of the " lamentable stroke of dearth and scarcity." It might 
have occurred to them that the people had had enough of 


History of Sanquhar. 

During the period which we have now reached, the end of 
the 18th century, the poet Burns often passed through 
Sanquhar prior to his removal to Ellisland, and visited the 
town after that time in pursuit of his calling. He was on 
intimate terms of friendship with Mr (afterwards Provost) 
Edward Whigham, who kept the head inn, where Burns 
frequently stayed overnight, and had such boon companions 
as Mr Johnston of Clackleith, and latterly of Blackaddie, 
who also became provost in 1791, and Mr Rigg, of Crawick 
Forge. The poet amused himself in copying out his manu- 
script productions, which copies he distributed among his 
friends, Provost Whigham coming in for a large share. He 
was presented with a copy of the Kilmarnock edition of 
Burns' Poems, which is now in the possession of Mr J. R. 
Wilson, of the Royal Bank, here. This volume contains on 
a fly-leaf a copy of verses which the poet scratched on a 
window-pane of the inn one morning after having break- 
fasted with Mr Whigham and his family : 

" Envy, if thy jaundiced eye, 
Through this window chance to spy, 
To thy sorrow thou shalt find 
All that's generous, all that's kind, 
Friendship, virtue, every grace 
Dwelling in this happy place." 

The pane of glass itself is in the possession of the repre- 
sentatives of the late Mr David Barker. Mr Barker had 
also a Memorandum in Burns' handwriting in the following 
terms : 

Memorandum for Provost E W to get from John French his sets of 
the following Scots airs 

1. The auld yowe jumpt o'er the tether. 

2. Nine nights awa, welcome hame, my dearie. 

3. A' the nights o' the year, the chapman drinks nae water. 

Mr Whigham will either of himself or through the medium of that WORTHY 
VETERAN of original wit and Social Iniquity CLACKLEITH procure these, 
and it will be extremely obliging to R. B. 

Now, Mr Whigham was not provost till the year 1793, 
and therefore this request was made to him by the poet 

History of Sauquhar. 2b'7 

while he was engaged in the recovery of old Scotch airs and 
songs for Mr Thomson's Collection, within a year or two of 
his death. Photographic copies were made of this memor- 
andum, and the foregoing is copied from one of these. 

The following is a copy of another letter of Burns, 
addressed, it is believed, to Mr John M'Murdo, Chamberlain 
to the Duke of Queensberry from 1780 to 1797, who fre- 
quently entertained the poet at Drumlanrig : 

SANQUHAR, 26th Nov., 17S8. 

SIR, I write you this and the enclosed, literally en passant, for I am 
just baiting on my way to Ayrshire. I have philosophy or pride enough 
to support me with unwounded indifference against the neglect of my more 
dull superiors, the merely rank and file of Noblesse and C entry, nay, even 
to keep my vanity quite sober under the loadings of their compliments ; 
but from those who are equally distinguished by their rank and character 
those who bear the true elegant impressions of the Great Creator on the 
richest materials their little notices and attentions are to me amongst the 
first of earthly enjoyments. The honour you did my fugitive pieces in 
requesting copies of them is so highly flattering to my feelings and Poetic 
ambition, that I could not resist even this half opportunity of scrawling 
off for you the enclosed as a small but honest testimony how truly and 
gratefully I have the honour to be, Sir, your deeply obliged humble 
servant, ROBERT BCRNS. 

Elsewhere, in connection with Municipal, Agricultural, and 
Industrial matters, the attempt is made to convey some idea 
of the -condition of the town prior to the beginning of the 
present century, but the materials are very meagre. As is 
stated in the preface, there is this serious disadvantage that 
the records of a place, which are frequently of the utmost 
value as sources of information in compiling its local history, 
are singularly deficient so far as Sanquhar is concerned. 
We are thus prevented, in a narration of the facts relating 
its general history, from going further back than the date 
above mentioned. 

Taking, therefore, the beginning of this century as our 
starting-point, the attention is first arrested by the cloud 

268 History of Sanquhar. 

that then overhung the town, as it did the whole country. 
Following the period of great prosperity which marked the 
last decade of the eighteenth century, the depression which 
characterised the opening years of this was felt with all the 
greater keenness. The country having recovered from the 
political disturbances caused by the expiring efforts of the 
Stuarts to regain the throne, which culminated in the rebel- 
lions of 1715 and 1745, the benefits of the interchange of 
commerce between Scotland and England, following upon 
the Union, and the great stimulus given to trade by the 
efforts of patriotic Scotsmen and the introduction of cotton, 
had combined to work a perfect revolution in the social con- 
dition of the country. Employment was now abundant, and 
wages had advanced, and the pulse of a commercial activity 
and enterprise, which the country had never previously 
experienced, beat full and strong, when the black shadow of 
war fell on the Continent and destroyed the whole fair pros- 
pect. That arch-disturber of the peace of the nations, 
Napoleon, had begun his career of ambitious and self-seeking 
policy, which was destined to entail untold sufferings and 
sacrifices until his final overthrow at Waterloo. Apart 
from, and in addition to, the enormous losses in the field of 
both blood and treasure, trade was paralysed, and though 
the iron hoof of war was never imprinted on British soil, our 
country in other respects had to bear the brunt of the final 
struggle. The pride which, in spite of the poverty and 
misery they had to endure, the people took in the successes 
of the British arms in the Peninsula, bore testimony to their 
heroic spirit. It was the common topic at every fireside, and 
the children, catching the spirit of their sires, went about 
the fields with sticks slashing the heads off the thistles, taking 
the weeds for Frenchmen. 

It was during this period that, as has been noted, the Town 
Council had once and again to come to the relief of the 
unemployed weavers, who were in a state of starvation, and 
had to take measures to secure a supply of oatmeal, which 

History of Sanquhar. 269 

the poor people could not procure even for money. As 
illustrating the straits to which they were reduced, we 
know of the case of the father of a large family in the locality 
who, procuring a reading of a newspaper for there were very 
few in circulation at that time observed a notice of the 
expected arrival of a vessel in the Port of Leith with a cargo 
of pease. Borrowing a pony, he set out with the object of 
securing a quantity of the pease, and arrived in time. 
Having bought at the ship's side as many as the pony could 
carry in a sack hung over pannier- wise, he returned home 
rejoicing. So long as the pease lasted, the principal food of 
the family was pea-bannocks. 

The large number of French prisoners who fell into the 
hands of the British were distributed over the country. The 
party sent to Sanquhar was composed of certain officers with 
their servants. They were stationed here for several years 
on their parole d'honneur, but were not allowed to pass 
beyond a circuit of three miles from the town. They were 
of all nations French, Italian, Poles, &c. for soldiers of 
fortune of almost all the continental nations flocked to 
Napoleon's standard. One was named Dufaure, another 
Wysilaski, another Delizia, and so on. They were handsome 
young fellows, had all the manners of gentlemen, and, living 
a life of enforced idleness, they became great favourites with 
the ladies, with whose hearts they played sad havoc, and, we 
regret to have to record, in some instances with their virtue. 
The banks of Crawick would appear to have been a favourite 
resort of theirs. On a rock in the Holm Walks one Luogo 
di Delizia has inscribed his name, with the date " 1 812" under- 
neath. Lower down, the date "1814 " is cut in similar style ; 
while to the right are two concentric circular lines containing 
the French word " Souvenir," plainly, though rudely, carved 
between. Their customary bathing place was a pool behind 
the Holm house, which bears to this day the name of the 
" Sodger's Pool." They were drafted off in batches as 
each exchange of prisoners' took place, and it is said that 

270 History of SanquJtar. 

some of them fell at Waterloo. They had all been removed 
before that time, the last leaving early in 1815, with 
the exception, perhaps, of one, Angus M'Gregor by name, 
whose father had had to take refuge in France for the 
part he had taken in the Rebellion of '45. Angus, it 
appears, had learnt hand-loom weaving, and practised the 
trade so long as he was in Sanquhav. 

The year 1826 was the " dry year," elsewhere referred to. 
It was followed by a snow-storm in the spring of 1827, still 
spoken of as the " big snaw." It began on Saturday, the 
3rd March, with showers of small flakes, and increased 
as the day advanced, till, as night set in, the fall became 
thick and fast, and was accompanied by a fierce gale of wind. 
The result was that drifting occurred, blocking up the roads, 
which had to be "cast" for the passage of the mail coach, 
and the wall of snow on either side was at points so high 
as to completely hide the coach as it passed along. The 
inmates of many of the houses single storey thatched ones 
had their communication cut off, and on the Sabbath morn- 
ing, when they opened their doors, they were confronted 
with an impenetrable wall of snow. A supply of water was 
secured by melting masses of the snow in a pot, and by this 
means their breakfast of porridge was prepared. They had 
to remain imprisoned until they were dug out by their more 
fortunate neighbours. Several shepherds, who were out 
looking after their flocks, were overtaken by the storm, and, 
getting confused in the blinding drift, perished. One of 
these was at Ulzieside, and another at Todholes. In the 
former case, the poor man had made a continuous circuit of 
a little knoll, as was shewn by his footprints in the snow. 
Not knowing where he was, he had tramped his dreary 
round, longing for the daylight which, poor soul, his eyes 
were never again to look upon. With step ever growing 
feebler, he struggled along till, at length stumbling, he fell, 
and, incapable of further effort, resigned himself to his 
fate. Additional pathos was lent to the incident by the fact 

History of Sanqiiliar. 271 

that this knoll was situated only a very short distance above 
his own house, so that he may be said to have perished on 
his own threshold, and within call of those whom he loved. 

Stage coaches had commenced to run between England 
and Scotland, and afterwards between certain towns in Scot- 
land, so early as the middle of the seventeenth century. The 
journey to London occupied many days, the whole lawful days 
of a week being consumed in the journey from York to that 
city. The delay was no doubt largely attributable to the poor 
character of the roads ; and it is noted in 1685 as a great feat 
that the Duke of Queensberry and other noblemen had travel- 
led from London to Edinburgh in eight days. There was no 
regular service of stage coaches, however, on the Nithsdale 
road till 100 years later. In the early years of this century 
there was a daily service. One coach, owned by Major 
Logan, of Knockenstob, and others, was called " The Inde- 
pendent," and put up at the Queensberry Inn, while another 
was named " The Burns ;" and at a later period a third, called 
" The Times," was added. A keen rivalry sprang up between 
them, and racing was of daily occurrence, affording a 
good deal of amusement to the townsfolk. " The Burns " 
was withdrawn, but "The Independent" continued to run 
till the opening of the railway. The arrival of the coach 
was the principal event of the day. The toot of the guard's 
horn, the crack of the driver's whip, and the gaily painted 
coach as it dashed up the street, drawn by its team of four 
steaming horses, roused the sleepy town. The good burghers 
peeped out of doors, or hurried to the inn to learn the news, 
while the youngsters crowded around, their highest ambition 
being to walk one of the horses round the stable yard till he 
had cooled, and then to ride him bareback to the River 
Nith for a bath, in which occupation many a one had his 
first lesson in the equestrian art. The opening of the railway 
gave the fatal blow to the coach system, and thus disappeared 
one of the most picturesque features of the social life of our 
small country towns. The mail was carried on horseback, 

272 History of Sa nqu har. 

and latterly by mail gigs. They were privately owned, and, 
besides the Government subsidy, a good deal was earned by 
the carriage of small parcels, and sometimes of a stray 
passenger or two. The direct road to Glasgow on foot by 
Muirkirk and Strathaven was shorter than that taken by the 
coach via Kilmarnock, the former being about 48 and the 
latter about 58 miles. William Cunningham, a watchmaker 
in Sanquhar, laid a bet that he would cover the distance 
between the two places in less time than the coach. 
Cunningham was a powerfully built man, and walked with a 
long swinging step. They started, the coach and he, together 
from the Tron steeple in Glasgow, and when the coach swept 
round the turn of the road at the Council House, the driver, 
to his astonishment, espied Cunningham standing at the 
inn's close awaiting its arrival to claim payment of the bet. 
He had done the journey in eight hours, keeping up, that is, 
a rate of six miles an hour, and won with twenty minutes to 

During the resurrectionist scare, about sixty years ago, when 
parties went about the country exhuming bodies from the 
churchyards for disposal as subjects for the dissecting-rooms 
in the colleges, a watch was set for some time, there being a 
prevalent belief that raids had been made, or were contem- 
plated, in this quarter. That these apprehensions Avere not 
unfounded, is proved by the story that John Thomson, a son 
of Dr Thomson of Sanquhar, at the time a medical student 
in Edinburgh, one morning identified a subject that lay on 
the dissecting-table as the body of an old blind fiddler who 
used to play at the "penny reels" held in the Council House 
on fair nights. 

The passing of the Reform Bill of 1832 was the next great 
event, than which, perhaps, nothing in the previous history 
of the town had evoked such a deep and widespread interest. 
The fortunes of the Bill were watched with eager expectancy, 
and the prolonged resistance which was made to it by the 
Tory party caused the very name of Tory to stink in the 

History of Sanquhar. 273 

nostrils of the Radicals of Sanquhar. The ultimate triumph 
of the measure was hailed with the keenest delight, and a 
Demonstration was organised. A procession, embracing the 
mass of the population, was made to Kirkconnel, a distance 
of four miles. It was accompanied by the usual bands of 
music and a liberal display of banners. On their return 
home, the processionists assembled on the square, where 
congratulatory addresses were delivered amid the greatest 
enthusiasm. As a sample of the oratory on the occasion, we 
give the peroration of a speech by a Mr Turner, the parochial 
schoolmaster of Kirkconnel " It would take an ocean of 
ink," he cried, " acres of paper, and a quill plucked from the 
wing of an archangel to write a record of the political crimes 
of the Tories." An inflammatory harangue of this sort could 
not be tolerated by his superiors, and it cost the author 
his situation. The Council house was illuminated, as 
was also every house in the town, by the simple form of 
placing candles in every window pane ; even the few Tories 
judged it wise to conform in order to conciliate the populace 
and save their window-glass, while one or two, who had made 
themselves particularly obnoxious, slipped quietly away from 
the town for the day. The evening was spent in the usual 
round of merrymakings. 

Down to this time and later, the animal spirits of the 
young fellows, which, having but little opportunity for exercise 
in the quiet every day life of the town, found vent at times in 
practical joking and other forms of horse play. There was 
no policeman to keep them in check, and a considerable 
degree of freedom, or rather licence, was enjoyed. As a 
rule, the element of malice was absent, and there was 
frequently a sufficient spice of humour in their tricks to 
disarm resentment, and nothing worse than a good laugh 
was excited. As examples of this sort of thing, the follow- 
ing may be taken : The Lochan was then a row of low 
thatch-roofed houses built against the rising ground behind, 
whence it was an easy matter to walk on to them. Ned 


274 History of Sanquhar. 

G , a shoemaker, who worked in the neighbourhood, 

would rise from his work, and, picking up sods which 
were always lying plentifully about, would walk along the 
roofs and clap a sod on each " lum." Returning, he would 
light his pipe, and resume his work. In a few minutes a 
great "row" suddenly sprang up in the Lochan. The 
women-folks, driven to the street by the smoke, which filled 
their houses, made a perfect Babel of tongues, when Ned 
would walk down, and inquire, with an air of the greatest 
innocence, " Wi,' what's ado," and on learning the cause 
would earn the good name of a " rale obleeging chiel " by 
going up and removing the sods which he himself had placed 

William Thomson, shoemaker, had, among his apprentices, 
one or two very stirring blades. Thomson, looking out of 
his back window one day, said in their hearing that he 
wished he had had some gooseberry bushes in his garden. 
Imagine his astonishment next morning, on looking out, to 
find the garden well supplied with bushes, loaded, too, with 
fine ripe berries. The 'prentices had interpreted his wishes 
in a way he had not anticipated. The rascals, aided by 
certain accomplices, had gone overnight to a large well- 
stocked garden at Knowehead and transported the bushes 

A fish hawker, who had failed to dispose of his stock-in- 
trade, unyoked his cart on the space of ground in front of 
the Town Hall, and left it there. It had leaked out 
that the fish were stinking, and, to pay him off, a band of 
young fellows drew the cart through the town, scattered the 
herrings on the street, and finished up by taking the cart to 
the kirkyard, where they contrived to suspend it from a 
branch of one of the trees. 

" Running " people was a form of practical joking peculiar, 
so far as we are aware, to Sanquhar. It was largely-indulged 
in by the young fellows, the victims being persons in a 
more or less intoxicated condition, or of somewhat 

History of Sanquhar. 275 

advanced years. It afforded amusement doubtless to the 
perpetrators, but it was no fun to the victim, who, at the end 
of his forced and rapid journey, was left in an exhausted arid 
breathless condition. The method of procedure was as 
follows : Having posted themselves at the door of a public- 
house, the youths awaited the exit of the individual 
whom they had marked out for their attentions. So soon as 
he emerged with unsteady gait, and mayhap humming the 
refrain of a song, he was seized firmly by each arm, at the 
wrist and the shoulder, and, if he were a man of powerful 
build, also from behind by the collar of the coat, and before 
be could utter a word of protest, he was carried along at a 
swift pace, which never slackened till he was landed at his 
own door. Not a word had been spoken by his assailants 
during the rapid and unceremonious convoy, nor by the 
victim, who found that he had sufficient to do to keep his feet, 
and had no breath to spare ; and when he recovered himself 
he found it was useless to give vent to his feelings of indigna- 
tion, for the rascals had swiftly disappeared. 

An amusing instance of this practice of " running " took 
place one evening with an old man, Tarnmie Graham. He 
was in the act of shaving, one side of his face being shaved, 
and the other covered with a fine lather of soap, his friend 
Baker Todd sitting by the fire, and "cracking" all the while, 
when a knock was heard on the door. Tammie laid down 
the razor, and answered the call. No sooner was the door 
opened than a brief scuffle was heard, followed by the sound 
of retreating footsteps. After a very short interval Tammie 
was deposited on his own door step. On his entering the 
house panting and excited, Todd inquired " What's ado, 
Tammas? Where hae ye been ava?" "Been," answered he; 
"Dreadfu' be't" (a favourite exclamation of his), "I hae been 
three times roon the p-p-p-pump well sin' I g-g-gaed oot." 
The mischievous twinkle in Todd's eye gave the suspicion that 
he was an accomplice in the trick, which received confirmation 
from the fact that during Tamrnie's absence he had drawn 

276 ffistory of Sanquhar. 

the edge of the razor across the fender. When the old man 
resumed the shaving process, and found that the razor was 
useless, he looked significantly at Todd, who, however, having 
an excellent command of his countenance, looked as innocent 
as a child. 

A minute of the Town Council of the year 1836 relates 
that " Bailie Edgar put in a claim for damages to his coat, 
received while engaged as a magistrate of the town in 
endeavouring to quell a disturbance caused by one Benjamin 
Robison, by whom his coat was torn to pieces." This minute 
introduces to us a notable character of the place. Benjamin, 
or Ben as he was briefly named, was of the class known as 
loafers. He followed no regular employment, but was ready 
for any chance job, for which he was sometimes rewarded 
with drink. In his sober senses a quiet enough man, Ben, 
when the drink was in, became a perfect fury. When in that 
condition he must get up a " row." He usually began with 
some antics which collected a crowd of children, whom he 
greatly amused, but the scene oftentimes developed into 
something serious whenever any bigger person interfered. 
When assailed, Ben would watch for his opportunity to seize 
some article of his assailant's clothing. He had a grip of 
iron ; when once he got a hold, it was impossible to unloose it, 
and whatever he caught had to come. On one occasion, a 
prominent citizen of the town was arrayed in all the glory of 
one of the ruffled shirts which had just come into fashion ; 
he unfortunately got into an altercation with Ben, whose 
eyes were attracted by this grand shirt. Springing forward 
like a wild cat, Ben seized and wrenched away the whole shirt 
front, ruffles and all. He, as we see, had no reverence for 
authority ; not even the august dignity of a magistrate 
could cowe him, and the majesty of an officer of the 
law had no terrors for him. The town officer, Sergeant 
Thomson, was endeavouring to remove him to jail for some 
street disturbance. Ben threw himself on his back 
on the ground (this was his favourite move when he 

History of Sanquhar. 277 

was in danger of being overpowered) and, watching 
his chance as the officer stooped over him, caught the 
tails of his coat and literally tore it off his back. These 
disturbances, of which he was the central figure, were called 
".Ben's weddings." Notwithstanding the damage which an 
individual sometimes suffered at his hands, his "weddings" 
afforded many an hour's fun, and he was a general favourite. 
Poor Ben came to an untimely end. Stumbling one day at 
the top of a steep stair in a public-house in the town, he 
was precipitated to the bottom. When picked up he was 
found to be insensible, and was carried home, where he 
lingered for two or three days, but never regained conscious- 
ness. Thus passed out of sight one who had been an out- 
standing figure in the social life of the town for many a 
day. His death occurred about the year 1841 or 1842. 

The mention of the name of this " character " leads us to 
remark that in the olden time there were in most little 
towns a number of individuals, not of the type of Ben 
certainly, but in whom individuality of character, of a great 
variety of type, was strongly marked. These peculiar 
traits were, for the most part, an abnormal development of 
one or other of our national characteristics, dogged deter- 
mination and perseverance, or the dry humour which, in spite 
of the ignorant sneer that it takes a surgical operation to get 
a joke into a Scotchman's head, is a distinctive feature of the 
Scottish character. The author of the above foolish saying 
could not have mixed in the society of the rural parts of 
Scotland, without discovering that the faculty of humour, 
and even the higher form of wit, was common enough. 

One of this class, Willie M , who went on the spree peri- 
odically for a week or a fortnight, called at a friend's house 
on his way home one day, in a very fuddled condition, and 
there unexpectedly met an old schoolfellow, a sea 
captain, who had been round the world, and whom 
he had not seen for many years. The captain was 
the first to recognise him, and, jumping up, greeted 

278 History of Sanquhar. 

his old friend in hearty sailor fashion. " How are 
you, Willie ? It's a long time since I saw you. How 
are you?" Willie, somewhat dazed, did not answer for a 
moment, but, pulling himself together, at length replied 
" Captain, homeward bound with a general cargo." 

On another occasion Willie, in the same condition, called 
on his friend. He had just learnt of the sudden death of a 
near relation. His friend spoke to him in a sympathetic 
tone, when Willie remarked " There's a good deal of the 
Apostle Paul about me this morning. I have sorrow upon 

A good story is told of another character, a mason, who 
was working in the country. He and another of the squad 
set out one morning to their work. There were two public- 
houses on the way. They called at the first house for a dram, 
which dram was but the prelude to a "big drink." They 
got no further that day. Next morning they set out again, 
and passed the first house with a firm determination not to 
repeat the folly of yesterday. By the time they had 
reached the next "public," however, the resolution of 
our friend failed. He again proposed a dram, for 
he was very dry. "Na, na," answered his friend; "I'm 
no gaun in the day." Persuasion was useless, arid so 
he said "Weel, weel, gang slow, and I'll be wi' ye in a 
meenit." His companion did so, looking over his shoulder 
now and again to see if he was coming, till a turn of the 
road hid the house from sight, and he then marched on. Work 
began, and went on for hours, when about noon a strange 
and accountable sound of music was heard, faint at first, but 
ever sounding louder and nearer ; when at length there was 
presented a scene which sent the whole squad into fits of 
laughter. Our friend had, after refreshing himself very 
freely, resumed his journey to his work, and foregathered 
on the way with an Italian organ grinder. How he made 
himself understood is not known, but he had hired the 
musician to play him to his work. On they came, the 

History of Sanquhar. 279 

organ man in front, grinding his music with might and main, 
while he strutted behind with a proud air, and making 
what he considered an impressive entry, shouted to the 
terrified Italian "Play up, ye furrin' deevil." 

An example of a different kind was that of Geordie L . 

French clay pipes had come into use, and one or two had 
found their way to Sanquhar. They could not be purchased, 
however, nearer than Glasgow. So great was Geordie's 
ambition to possess one of these grand pipes that he actually 
set out on foot all the way to Glasgow for the sole purpose 
of buying a French clay pipe. Having secured this coveted 
object, he carried it carefully in his hand all the way home. 
When he had reached the precincts of the town he stopped, 
filled and lighted it, and then marched down the middle 
of the street a proud man. He stayed up a little close off 
the main street, the opening of which was very narrow, and 
in turning the corner rather sharp, the head of the pipe 
caught the house, and in a moment Geordie's heart, which 
had swelled with pride over his new possession, sank within 
him as he saw it fall, shivered to pieces at his feet. 

These are only a few samples of hundreds of such stories, 
which could be told of Sanquhar characters, but space forbids. 
For intellectual gifts of a somewhat higher order, we should 
mention two farmers of the neighbourhood the late Mr 
Williamson of Barr and Mr M'Call of Ulzieside Auld Barr 
and Ulzieside as they were familiarly called. Their witty 
sayings, particularly those of the former, are often quoted. 
But were quick in repartee, and no one cared to encounter 
them. Being next neighbours and fast friends, they sharp- 
ened each other's wits in their daily intercourse. The truth 
is, one would have had to search far and wide before coming 
across two such characters in any countryside. 

Speaking of farmers, this district contained specimens of 
the hard, close-fisted class, who contrived to gather together 
wonderful fortunes, but the truth is, money-making was 
their life's study. As an example of how it was done, let us 

280 History of Sanquhar. 

adduce the case of one who had been visiting overnight a 

O O 

neighbour some miles distant. He was hospitably enter- 
tained, and driven to Sanquhar, half-way home, by his friend. 
On alighting he, addressed him, saying " Weel, Mr K., ye 
hae been very kind ; if ye'll come in, I'll treat ye." The 
gentleman consented, and when the bell had been rung the 
old man said " What'll ye tak' ? " " Oh," answered the 
other; "it's early, I'll just take a bottle of lemonade." 
" Juist what I was gauri to tak' mysel'," he added, " and I 
daursay ae bottle may dae us baith." Turning to the waiting 
maid, he gave his order " Bring a bottle of lemonade and 
twae tumblers, my woman." 

This same old farmer borrowed a cart from a neigh- 
bour on the opposite side of the river. There was a toll-bar 
at the bridge, and when he had done with the borrowed cart, 
he was concerned how he would get it returned without 
incurring the twopence of toll. At last he hit upon a device. 
He was a big strong man, and getting between the trams, 
with the rigwoodie chain over his shoulder, he dragged the 
cart across the bridge, and into the side of the road near to the 
farm whence he had borrowed it, and sent up word to its 
owner where he would find it. This man died worth several 
thousand pounds. 

Resuming our narrative we come down to 1848, when the 
country suffered a dreadful visitation of cholera. It gradually 
spread northwards, and at length reached Dumfries, which, 
being in a particularly insanitary state, suffered to a fearful 
extent. Panic seized the people in all quarters, and travellers 
by road were viewed with the greatest suspicion, and contact 
with them shunned. Measures of precaution against the 
introduction of the fell disease were taken. They were of 
the simplest kind, the laws of sanitary science being then 
practically unknown. The Town Council gave orders for the 
cleaning out of middens, and a general white-washing 
took place. Every passenger who was known, or 
suspected, to have been in the ill-fated county town was 

History of Sanqufiar. 281 

arrested on his arrival, and fumigated. For this purpose a 
square box, high enough to reach to the neck, was made. 
Into this he was thrust, and a cloth covering the top of the 
box was tied tightly round his neck. When that had been 
done, a mixture of sulphur and quicklime was put into an 
iron cup, and was then lighted, and laid in the bottom of 
the box. An amusing scene occurred with an Irish tramp, 
who was subjected to this process. Failing to understand 
the object of the authorities he offered a stout resistance, and 
it was with the greatest difficulty that he was got into the 
box. When the naming sulphur was thrust in at his feet, 
his features were transfixed with horror. Evidently he 
thought he was to be burnt alive. On being liberated he 
bolted out, and when he reached the street set up a wild 
hurroo, and shouted " By my sowl, and it never fired on 
me." The town happily escaped the cholera, but for weeks 
the inhabitants lived in a state of the greatest apprehension. 

Chambers, in his " Domestic Annals," mentions a pheno- 
menon that occurred in the end of the year 1838, when the 
Nith and other rivers in the south of Scotland were so 
depleted of water that all the mills were stopped. This 
strange occurrence was attributed to various causes ; some 
thought it was due to an earthquake, others to a wind 
driving back the waters. The matter was inquired into by 
a distinguished scientist, who gave the opinion that it was 
due to the severe frost, which had completely frozen up the 
upper streams, while the lower reaches had been emptied 
into the sea. This was no doubt the true reason, for it was 
during the winter of 1838-39 that the longest and greatest 
frost of the century was experienced. The frost lasted for 
twelve or thirteen weeks, the Nith being crossable anywhere 
for miles. 

We do not require to refer here to the Chartist agitation, 
having touched on that subject in the notes on the Sanquhar 

In the year 1845 there is the first mention of a coming 


282 History of Sanquhar. 

event which was destined to have a great effect upon the 
trade and social condition of the whole district the making 
of the railway through Nithsdale. The construction of it 
was let in sections to contractors, and the navvies employed 
were almost wholly Irish, the bulk being Roman Catholics. 
Between them and the natives there was no good feeling 
from the outset. The people of Sanquhar, whose minds were 
deeply imbued with the spirit of exclusiveness, inbred by the 
privileges which, as burghers, they had enjoyed for genera- 
tions, always looked askance at strangers, whom they termed, 
and even yet are inclined to stigmatise, as "incomers." This 
feeling of hostility towards the navvies was intensified by 
the fact that they were of an alien faith. In the rural 
parts of the south of Scotland the bulk of the population 
was Protestant ; in many parishes, and Sanquhar was one, 
not a single Roman Catholic was to be found. The attitude 
and conduct of the navvies, so far from conciliating, only 
served to exasperate the people of the town. They were 
ignorant, savage, and treacherous. Attacks were continually 
being made, under cloud of night, on individual inhabitants 
by bands of two or three or more navvies, for they always 
liked to have the advantage of numbers. These attacks 
were made without the slightest warning, and upon people 
with whom they had no cause of quarrel. Springing out 
from the shadow of a corner, they^ would belabour and kick 
their victim unmercifully, and leave him bruised and bleed- 
ing on the ground. Sometimes they were watched and 
interrupted, but, whenever they became anything like equally 
matched in numbers, they immediately fled. Many of the 
weavers were stout young fellows, and some of them carried, 
down the inside of their trouser-leg or elsewhere about them, 
a good stout stick, which was quickly produced if occasion 
demanded. It was plain that the town's-people and the 
navvies would have it out some day, and that day came when 
the steeplechases were held on the Muir. These steeplechases 
were organised by the contractors, who sought thereby to 

History of Sanquhar. 283 

gratify the humour of their workmen and their own humour 
as well. Work on the railway was completely suspended for 
the day, and an immense concourse of spectators congregated 
on the ground to witness what was an entire novelty in this 
quarter. Drink was going plentifully, and the navvies 
assumed a very aggressive attitude. The inevitable collision 
occurred in the evening between a body of them and a band 
of weavers at the Council House. The latter felt that the 
time had come for settling who should be masters, and had 
made due preparations accordingly. They were all armed 
with cudgels, and when the moment of action arrived the 
navvies found themselves confronted by a close phalanx of 
determined opponents, who laid about them with a will. 
Beaten at their own game the navvies, finding a convenient 
magazine of broken road metal, took to stone-throwing. 
A section of the weavers, by a dexterous flank march, cut off 
their line of retreat. The navvies took alarm, broke and fled 
along the road towards Kirkconnel, along which they were 
chased out of the parish. The only serious injury sustained, 
however, was by a navvy who had his leg fractured, but many 
broken heads and bruises kept the Irishmen in mind of the 
lesson they had been taught. From that time they gave no 
further trouble. 

In the year 1839, Crawick Mill Carpet Company introduced 
gas for lighting their works and the village, and the Town 
Council resolved to consult the engineer as to its introduc- 
tion into the town. The result was that a Company 
was formed with this object. The Council subscribed for 
200, which was subsequently increased by 15 when the 
main pipe was extended to the railway station, at the opening 
of the railway. The Gas Company was not a prosperous 
concern for many years, owing to the works being ill-con- 
structed at first. The street pipes were laid too shallow, and 
an enormous loss was caused thereby. No dividend having 
been declared for several years, the Company being in 
debt to a considerable amount, fresh capital was raised ; 

284 History of Sanquhar. 

the works were improved, and closer attention to the Com- 
pany's business was given by a new body of directors. The 
profits have been largely devoted to still further improve- 
ments, including a double main on the streets ; dividends 
have been declared on the preference and sometimes on the 
ordinary stock, and the price of gas was recently reduced 
from 8s 4d to 6s Sd per thousand feet. 

A reading-room was established in the year 1848 in one 
of the rooms of the Town Hall, and was the scene of many 
an animated debate on political and social subjects. It was 
well supplied with newspapers, and was for many years a 
flourishing institution, but the abolition of the paper duty, 
and the consequent reduction in the price of newspapers to 
a penny, together with the great extension of cheap literature, 
took away its attractions, most of the readers preferring to 
have their papers in their own homes. 

A great improvement on the street was effected in 1852 
by the erection of a terrace on the north side at Corseknowe. 
The ground rises above the level of the street, which, as we 
have elsewhere said, originally ran over the knowe, but was 
subsequently cut through it. A retaining wall, surmounted 
by an iron railing, was put up, and it received the name of 
Dalkeith Terrace, in honour of the Earl of Dalkeith, whose 
coming of age in the same year the townspeople had just 
celebrated in a very hearty manner. The cost of the terrace 
was about 60. 

The reader will have observed frequent reference to " The 
Pump Well." The water supply of the town was then derived 
from a number of wells distributed over the town, but this 
well, which was situated at the Market Cross, was in an 
emphatic sense the pump well. It was beautifully built with 
ashlar, and was covered by a stone erection. The spout by 
which the water was discharged faced down the street ; the 
handle of the pump was a long bar of iron with a ball at the 
end. It was not driven vertically, but horizontally, like the 
pendulum of a clock. Few there were who could swing this 

History of Sanquhar. 285 

ponderous handle except with both their hands, and to do so 
with but one hand was regarded as a proof of great strength 
of arm. A stone seat was set along the side of the pump 
facing the street. The widening of the street in recent times 
having left the pump near the middle of the roadway, an 
obstruction to the street traffic, it was shifted back to the 
side of the pavement in the year 1836, and it was ultimately 
taken down and removed altogether about the year 1881. 

The source of the present water supply, introduced in 
the year 1868, is Lochburn. A limited liability company 
was incorporated 21st April, 1868, with a capital, including 
preference shares, of about 2000. A reservoir was con- 
structed at the gathering ground on Clenries farm, at a 
distance of three miles, and a distributing tank and filters 
on an elevation in the neighbourhood of the town. The 
quality of the water is excellent, being very soft, and there- 
fore suitable for general household as well as dietetic purposes. 

The Volunteer movement in 1859 was adopted with great 
enthusiasm in Sanquhar and the country parts surrounding. 
A strong company was promptly formed, arid commenced 
drilling in the " big shop " at Crawick Mill an empty 
weaving shop formerly belonging to the Carpet Company 
It was composed of all classes farmers, artisans, and 
labourers. They were tall, broad-shouldered men, but in 
truth this description applied equally to the other companies 
in the County. Public attention was drawn in the Metro- 
polis to their splendid physique, as they marched down 
Princes' Street on their way to the Royal Review in 1860, 
and we remember hearing an inspecting officer declare that 
he had never seen the same number of men cover so much 
ground as the Dumfriesshire Volunteers did when standing 
in rank. The company still continues strong and efficient. 

The Dumfries District of Burghs was represented in 
Parliament, from 1847 to 1868, by Mr William Ewart, a 
Liverpool merchant, who was much respected, both by his 
constituency and in the House. Amid the ups and downs of 

286 History of Sanquhar. 

political feeling in the other burghs of the group, Sanquhar 
always remained steadfast to Mr Ewart and Liberalism, and 
on one occasion, when he was opposed by the late Mr Hannay, 
the most brilliant of all those who broke a lance with him 
during his Parliamentary career, the return from Sanquhar 
shewed that not a single vote had been cast for his opponent. 
Mr Ewart, in 1863, presented a handsome barometer to the 
inhabitants of Sanquhar, which is inserted in the wall of 
what was then the residence of Provost Williamson. His 
portrait, gifted to the town after his death by his sister, 
Miss Ewart, hangs in the Council Chamber. 

In 1852 the Town Council resolved "to promote the cele- 
bration in a becoming manner of the attainment of his 
majority by the Earl of Dalkeith, as a mark of respect and 
attachment to the noble house of Buccleuch and Queens- 
berry." They resolved to illuminate the Town Hall, to ring 
the Town's bell, and voted a sum of ten guineas for fire- 
works The townspeople entered heartily into the demon- 
stration, which was of a most successful character. 

A still greater event, and one which evoked a wonderful 
display of loyal feeling, was the visit of the Prince of Wales 
to the town in 1871. His Royal Highness and the Princess 
of Wales were, in the month of October, on a visit to the 
Duke of Buccleuch at Drumlanrig Castle, and shooting 
parties were arranged on His Grace's moors in the upper 
part of his estate. Having occasion to pass through 
Sanquhar, the Duke was just a trifle anxious as to the 
reception which the Prince might receive. The Sanquhar 
people were regarded by all Tories as dangerous Radicals, 
not given to ceremony in the expression of their political 
opinions. They availed themselves, however, of this visit of 
the heir-apparent to the throne to shew to all men that their 
Radicalism was quite consonant with loyalty. Indications 
that this was so had indeed been given by them on previous 
occasions, as in 1841, on the birth of the Prince of Wales, in 
1863 on his marriage, and again, in the early part of this same 

History of Sanquhar. 287 

year 1871, on the marriage of the Princess Louise to the 
Marquis of Lome, when they were not behind in testifying 
their attachment to the reigning house and the institutions 
of the country, but all these previous demonstrations were 
eclipsed on this occasion of the royal visit. The Town 
Council presented a loyal and dutiful address, to which the 
Prince graciously replied. Three floral arches were erected 
across the main street, and the plain architectural features 
of the houses were concealed by a profusion of flags, ever- 
greens, and other decorations. On the party passing through 
in the morning, they were greeted along the whole length of 
the street by the population, who turned out en masse. The 
carriage containing the Prince and his ducal host proceeded 
at a walking pace, and His Royal Highness displayed an 
affable manner which fairly captivated the Sanquhar people. 
On the return journey in the evening still greater crowds, 
gathered from far and near, awaited his arrival, and gave 
him a right royal welcome. There was a display of fire-works, 
the Council House was illuminated, as were also the houses 
down to the meanest cottage, where the modest candle in the 
window testified at once to the poverty and its loyalty of 
inmates. The notice of the royal visit that was received had 
been short, arid preparations were hurriedly made, but as the 
Prince passed again on the following day the demonstration 
was repeated with even greater enthusiasm. All were agreed 
that the like of it had never before been seen in Sanquhar, 
and his Royal Highness, in his reply to the address of the 
Town Council, expressed his grateful sense of " the hearty 
reception he had met with from all classes of the community 
when he had passed through Sanquhar." The people, in 
addition to the loyal feeling by which they were inspired, 
were no doubt actuated also by a regard to the fact that the 
Prince was the guest of the Duke of Buccleuch, and sought 
in honouring the guest to likewise honour the host. A 
further proof of their kindly feeling to the house of Buccleuch 
was given in 1882, on the coming of age of Lord Eskdaill, 

288 History of Sanquhar. 

the eldest grandson of the Duke, when a demonstration of a 
very hearty kind was made while an address of sympathy 
and condolence was sent by the Town Council to the Duke 
and Duchess on the occasion of his sudden and pathetic 
death in 1886. Lord Eskdaill was a young nobleman of 
great promise, and had won golden opinions from all on the 
vast family estates with whom he had come into contact. 
The accident which caused his death occurred far from 
human dwelling or human aid, save such as his Highland 
ghillie could render him. The pathetic story of his last 
hours, as he lay on the heather, bleeding slowly to death, 
and the gentleness of soul which he displayed as, with almost 
his last breath, he whispered his thanks to the servant for 
the water which he brought him, sent a thrill through the 
whole country, and evoked a universal feeling of sympathy 
with his parents in the loss, under such trying circumstances, 
of one who was the light of their home, and with whom were 
bound up so many fond anticipations. 

Last, but not least, of these periodic celebrations was that 
of the Jubilee of Her Majesty the Queen in 1887. The 
occasion was observed throughout the whole country on a 
stupendous scale, but we believe that in no town of its size, 
certainly not in this part of the kingdom, were more elaborate 
preparations made. The great mass of the population, joined 
by large crowds from Kirkconnel and Wanlockhead, marched 
in procession, to Kemp's Castle, where a platform had been 
erected, whence, after the proceedings had been opened by 
prayer, appropriate addresses were delivered to the vast 
throng. The Volunteers fired &feu-de-joie, and ringing cheers 
were given for Her Majesty. Sports were provided for the 
young people, and refreshments for all. A free concert was 
given in the evening in the Public Hall, and a half crown was 
presented to every poor person in the two parishes. A bon- 
fire on Matthew's Folly at a later hour, where an immense 
crowd assembled, gave a fitting termination to the day's pro- 
ceedings, into which every one had thrown himself heart and 
soul, and which passed off successfully in every way. 

History of Sanqifhar. 289 

This chapter may he brought to a close with a rapid 
survey of the changes effected in country districts by the 
railway. The conditions of life and the daily habits and 
customs of the people in country districts throughout Scotland 
underwent no great change during the generation that pre- 
ceded the introduction of railways, about the middle of the 
present century. Each small district was completely inbound. 
What lay within the limits of the horizon was all the world to 
them, so far as their daily life was concerned, and a certain 
air of mystery or romance surrounded all outside this narrow 
circle. The natives were, as a whole, content to walk in the 
footsteps of their fathers, following the same occupations, 
generation after generation, the result being that, according 
to a well understood law of nature, particular families acquired 
an hereditary skill in particular branches of work. At the 
same time, there were bold and adventurous spirits, whose 
ambition scorned the quiet, uneventful life of their native 
vales, and longed to explore the great world beyond. Oft- 
times they, like the patriarch, "went out, not knowing 
whither they went ;" and, though without definite aim or 
purpose, or the inspiration of the promise of a great future, 
they were guided, as truly as he was, by the hand of 
Providence. At all events, the prosperity which marked their 
after-career was in many instances truly wonderful, but was 
only the direct and natural fruit of the indomitable qualities 
of the hardy race from which they were sprung. They proved 
themselves the pioneers of civilisation in many a remote 
corner of the globe, laying the foundations of thriving 
colonies, which have since become a source of pride to the 
British Empire, and have extended the influence of the 
Anglo-Saxon race upon the destinies of the whole human 
family ; and how often has it happened that in the course of 
time his native town has found itself unexpectedly and 
richly endowed by the munificence of a son, the memory of 
whose way-going had almost faded from the recollection of 
his boyish associates ? But, not to speak of emigration beyond 


290 History of Sanquhar. 

seas, a journey in that age from one end of the island to the 
other was an enterprise fraught with considerable risk, and 
only to be undertaken on important occasions,and aftermature 
deliberation. A journey to London was not unattended with 
danger to life or limb. Road accidents were not uncommon, 
and over and above these had to be reckoned the chances 
of falling a prey to the highwayman, the tales of whose 
daring escapades, so often heard at his own fireside, kept the 
traveller's mind in a state of uneasiness and apprehension. 
So serious, indeed, were the risks, that the prudent family 
man, who was about to undertake such a journey, regarded 
it as his first duty to make his will. When the day of his 
departure arrived, his family circle was thrown into a state 
of agitation and concern, and his fellow-townsmen crowded 
around to see him off and wish him God-speed. On his safe 
return, he was congratulated on his good fortune, and thence- 
forward, in the minds of his friends and neighbours, he was 
regarded as a person of no small importance. Long journeys 
by coach were confined to men of substance ; the movements 
of the common people had to be made on foot, the toilsome- 
ness of the way being sometimes relieved by a friendly " lift '* 
on the top of a carrier's cart. The occasions on which any 
great number of the people travelled together were few. 
The occurrence of a curling match with a neighbouring 
parish was so great and so unusual an event that the pre- 
parations for an early start threw the curlers, and, indeed, 
the whole population, into a wonderful state of excitement, 
which was once tersely described by a wag, who said that in 
Crawick Mill " they were rinnin' wi' teapots and razors the 
hale nicht." Attending a neighbouring sacrament, or a fair, 
if there was a market town within easy reach, led to an 
exodus for the day of a large portion of the population, but 
with these rare exceptions their lives consisted of a plain, 
monotonous round of common duties. 

And yet, it must not be supposed theirs was an unhappy 
lot. It may truly be said, speaking of this district in par- 

History of Sanquhar. 291 

ticular, that the condition of the population, though a humble, 
was a reasonably happy and contented one. In both town and 
country, employment was, on the whole, steady and plentiful. 
In the town, weaving was the principal industry, and, in the 
country around, the population was rooted to the soil, families 
of farmers and cottars remaining in the same place for genera- 
tions. Though the wages of agricultural labourers were small, 
they were supplemented in various ways. The notion that the 
interests of capital and labour were antagonistic was never once 
entertained ; they lived together, masters and servants, with 
no great difference in their condition outwardly, and on terms 
of cordial friendship. The children of the ploughmen were 
constantly running about the farm-house and falling heir to 
the fragments of a meal, the odds and ends that fell to them 
from the kitchen table coming in no way amiss to sturdy 
boys with good healthy appetites. It was a common arrange- 
ment that, in addition to the wage in money, which was 
small, the cottar received a plentiful supply, free, of skim 
milk from the dairy, and was allowed to plant a small patch 
of potatoes. The cast-off clothes from the farm household, 
or sometimes even a cut off the web when it came from the 
mill, fell to the ploughman and his family. His wife helped 
with the milking, and every one who could make a strap, 
bind a sheaf, or assist in any way, turned out to the " hairst- 
rig." The system of payment " in kind " obtained also in 
the engagement of shepherds, many of whom had what was 
called a " pack " a certain number of sheep which pastured 
with the general flock, the produce of which belonged to the 
shepherd as part of his remuneration. In these arrange- 
ments one can detect the germ of the idea of "three acres 
and a cow," and of the principle of common-sharing of profits 
between employers and employed, which are being advocated 
in these days by certain reformers. The population in the 
purely rural part was in those days very considerable, much 
greater than it has since become. There was quite a number 
of small farms, each with its own farm-house, and servant's 

292 History of Sanqukar. 

cothouse as well, while by the road-side were groups here 
and there of cottages two, four, or half-a-dozen together 
where were bred the stalwart families, whose ranks formed 
the unfailing supply of agricultural labour. The ruins of 
some still remain, but of the bulk of them every trace has 
been obliterated. This process of depopulation was the 
direct result of the policy, which began about fifty years ago, 
of constituting one large farm out of two or three small 
contiguous farms, and which has been ultimately carried to 
such an extent that, aggravated by other influences elsewhere 
noted, the supply of the agricultural labour, which, notwith- 
standing the extensive use of machinery, is still necessary, 
can hardly be maintained, even though the wages have been 
meanwhile doubled and even trebled. 

The burghers of the old town had the placid stream of 
their daily life rippled with their periodical celebrations of 
Riding the marches, Town Council and trades elections, and 
the King's birthday ; while their burghal privileges gave, to 
them a direct interest in politics, both imperial and local. 
Though down to the Reform period their municipal rulers 
were, being self-elected, beyond popular control, the con- 
stituents whom they professed to represent claimed, and 
exercised freely, the right to criticise their conduct. Then 
the great fairs at Candlemas, July, and November, besides 
other minor fixtures of the same kind created no little stir. 
The first is likewise called "The Herds' Fair," that being the 
day on which shepherds are engaged for the year ; but the 
changes of service were then much less frequent or numerous 
than they have in later times become, since the old-estab- 
lished relation of common interest between master and 
servant has been unfortunately displaced by a feeling, if not 
of hostility and mutual suspicion, at least lacking the element 
of friendship. In former times it was quite common for 
shepherds to retain during a long life the " places " in which 
they had mayhap succeeded their fathers, or where they had 
first been engaged as " lad-herds." Their names were just 

History of Sanqukar. 293 

as naturally associated in the public mind with the " herding," 
which was their care, as was that of the owner of the flock. 
They came to know the ground and the stock, and rare was 
the occasion when a flockmaster parted with a shepherd to 
hand over the charge of his " hirsel " to a stranger. 

On the Herd-Fair day the street was filled with a crowd 
of stalwart men and lads, all clad in home-made stuff, the 
black-and-white plaid universally worn by them being 
either folded carefully and thrown over the shoulder, or 
wound round the body so as to cover it completely down 
to the knees, just as it suited the taste of the wearer, 
or as the state of the weather demanded. Each carried 
the most stylish stick of the large stock which he 
possessed, the making and polishing of which beguiled 
the long winter evenings, and had his inseparable com- 
panion, the faithful collie, at his heels. It is to be 
regretted that the place of the black-and-white plaid is of 
late years being largely taken by a sort of cheap water-proof 
coat. Each class may be expected to know best what suits the 
necessities of their daily employment, but certainly there 
could be no more picturesque and appropriate " hap " for a 
shepherd than the time-honoured plaid. 

The contrast has been noted between the demeanour of 
the mixed crowds which throng round the doors of the 
public-houses on an ordinary fair night with that of the 
shepherds on their fair night. The opportunities of dissipa- 
tion enjoyed by the former are more frequent, and the effect 
of free indulgence in the " barley-bree " is too often to make 
them quarrelsome and foul-tongued, but, in the case of the 
shepherds, the manifestations are of a more harmless and 
inoffensive character. These hill-men, under the same con- 
ditions, would seem to experience a great exhilaration of 
spirits, and the unwonted feeling finds an outlet in shouting 
and singing. The collies, to keep them company, take to 
barking, the result being many a " collie-shangie," in which 
much mutually-defiant wrath obtains utterance, and a good 
deal of worrying takes place, but little damage is done. 

294 History of Sanquhar. 

The July Fair the great lamb and wool market of the 
year in the South of Scotland brought together, and does 
still, a large concourse of people, all interested to learn the 
prevailing prices. 

At the fair in November, the principal articles traded in 
were vegetables onions and carrots for winter use and 
hence this was familiarly called " The Onion Fair." The 
finest specimens of this succulent vegetable were strung 
round a band of straw about twelve or fifteen inches long, 
and were sold at so much per string, while the smaller and 
poorer sorts were sold by weight. 

At all these fairs the sides of the main street, from the 
pump- well westward, were lined with booths ; on the north 
side these were filled with the small-wares which were 
required in country houses ; the candy-barrow and fruit 
stalls were the centre of attraction for all youngsters who 
had had their " fairiu'," and were anxious to make it go as 
far as possible ; while above the din could be heard the 
cheery and inviting call of the proprietor of the shooting- 
stand " Fire away, boys ! Nuts for your money, and sport 
for nothing." Crowded round him under the awning were 
the boys, large .and small, of sporting proclivities. On the 
table was heaped up a huge pile of nuts, and at the back was 
erected a board painted with circles and other devices in 
strong colours, upon which was nailed a group of brass rings 
of various sizes ; it was the ambition of the young sharp- 
shooter to plant within one of these rings the little dart 
discharged from one or other of the various matchlocks lying 
over the heap of nuts. The range was only about a couple 
of feet, and strong percussion caps were the only propelling 
force used. The smaller the ring into which the dart was 
shot the larger was the number of nuts allowed, but however 
bad the shot might prove, a few were given in consolation. 
The local cooper exhibited a varied collection of his manufac- 
tures, from the churn down to the smallest articles used in 
the dairy and the country kitchen. The south side of the 

History of Sanquhar. 295 

street was reserved for stands for the sale of boots, shoes, and 
slippers. The whole scene was one of the greatest anima- 
tion, and afforded pleasurable excitement and genuine fun to 
both young and old. In the olden time the day was brought 
to a fitting close by the dancing of " penny reels " in the 
Council House. 

The internal trade of the country was very limited in 
extent, each district being practically self-sustaining. The 
habits and tastes of the people were plain and simple, both 
in the matter of food and dress. With regard to the former, 
it consisted almost wholly of the products of their native soil, 
oatmeal and potatoes being the principal articles of diet ; 
while in regard to dress, it likewise, both as to material and 
manufacture, was a native production. Durability was the 
primary, appearance only a secondary, consideration. The 
scarcity of money no doubt compelled this in most cases, but 
even where the means of a family would have enabled them 
to indulge in dress of a more showy and expensive kind, the 
product of foreign looms, they preferred for the most part to 
yield to the promptings of thrift. The ambition of the 
housewife of this period lay in another direction than that of 
personal adornment viz., in the plenishing of her house. 
Her blanket-chest was her treasure-chest. The greatest day 
of all the year to her was that on which its contents received 
their annual airing, and she spread out the long row of 
blankets on the hedge-rows in the sight of all her neighbours 
with a decided feeling of pride. The number of pairs which 
a daughter received as part of her marriage outfit was a 
subject of anxious inquiry among her female friends, and 
was a tolerable guide to estimating the " bienness " of her 
family. The stock with which she started her married life, 
it was her constant care to augment from time to time, and 
when a division of the goods and gear took place after the 
mother's death, there was nothing the daughters more 
earnestly coveted, and over which they were more apt to 
quarrel, than the possession of the blankets. The store in a 

296 History of Sanquhar. 

long-established household sometimes numbered no less than 
thirty, forty, or fifty pairs. The worship of the goddess of 
fashion had not yet been set up in country parts. House- 
hold comfort, rather than personal display, was the great aim 
of the matrons of that age. 

What little traffic there was between one part of the 
country and another was easily enough overtaken by the 
carriers' carts, which conveyed heterogeneous loads of mer- 
chandise, composed largely of small parcels, which were kept 
from falling off by a square wooden " heck," tied on the top 
of the heavier goods. It was within the heck and among 
the parcels that the weary traveller, who was fortunate enough 
to get a lift from the good-natured carrier, was seated. 

Not only in respect of the necessaries of life was it true 
that each locality provided for its own needs, but the same 
principle applied in trades and manufactures. The records 
of the burgh make reference, for example, to the following 
as having been practised here : Plough-wright, turner, 
wool-comber, tanner, stocking-framer, dyster or dyer, book- 
binder, barber, and wig-maker. The trade of plough-wright, 
now practically obsolete, reminds one of the age when agri- 
cultural implements were of rude and simple construction, 
and were principally made of wood. A turning-lathe is still 
to be seen in country joiners' shops here and there, for, to 
the general joiner or carpentry business, is often added that 
of cabinetmaking the making of the furniture which forms 
the plenishing of a young married couple's home. This 
consisted of the kitchen requisites, including a corner cup- 
board, made of triangular form, and set up overhead in a 
corner, containing the best china, for the display of which 
the door was usually left open ; and further, a cupboard and 
dresser, as it is called, which stood on the floor ; across the 
upper part rails of wood were stretched, behind which were 
arrayed the housewife's best dinner service, all set up on edge, 
with her best spoons placed between, and additional attrac- 
tiveness lent to the set-out by a row of bowls ornamented 

History of Sanquhar. 297 

in dazzling colours, and various smaller articles similarly 
emblazoned. The branch of cabinet-making is, however, a 
mere adjunct to the joiner's main business, and no one now 
professes the regular trade of turner. In the early part of 
the century there was a tan-pit at the foot of the Calton 
Close (now named Baronscourt), and a bark-mill stood on the 
south side of the close. The reference to the trades of wool- 
comber and dyer (or dyster, as it was universally styled), 
points to the woollen manufactures, which are treated of in 
the chapter on " Industries," as is also the old-established 
manufacture of stockings, gloves, and mittens. The town 
likewise boasted a bookbinder. One Thomas Brown, who 
followed this calling, would appear to have been a man of 
some literary pretensions, for he published in the year 1807 
a " Gazeteer of the United Kingdom," in two vols., a copy of 
which is in the possession of Mr Robert Halliday, weaver, 
Castle Street, who purchased it at a roup many years ago. 
The work is wonderfully complete, and does the utmost 
credit to the industry of one who, so situated, must have 
laboured under great difficulties in the compilation of such a 
mass of detailed information. 

The reader will be surprised to learn that there were in 
the town two tobacco factories. James Otto, the father of 
Provost Otto, was a tobacco manufacturer. He had his 
factory in the house, 2 Church Road, the front of which was 
pierced by nine windows, five, in the upper and four in the 
ground flat. Of these, four have been built up, and the whole 
converted into a dwelling-house. The other factory was the 
second house south of the police station, on the same side of 
the street. It is but natural to expect to find a brewery in 
a town, where, together with the immediate neighbourhood, 
there were no less than about thirty public-houses, in days 
before the temperance movement had arisen, and when drink- 
ing customs were almost universal. Such an establishment 
was kept in the building at the corner of High Street and 
Leven Road by the firm of Brown, Nichol, and Vass, while 


298 History of Sanqultar. 

another, kept by Jonathan Dawson, was situated in the 
range of buildings in Simpson Koad, commonly called "The 
Tabernacle." The daily wants of the population were further 
provided for by bands of travelling tinkers, who moved up 
and down the length and breadth of the land, making on the 
spot and selling tin utensils of all kinds ; basket-makers, who 
found in the woods and marshy flats the willow wands and 
sticks they required in their trade, and with these wove 
baskets according to the size and style prescribed by the 
housewife, while horn spoons were worked out of the horns 
of slain cattle, laid past for that purpose, and placed in the 
hands of persons skilled in this manufacture, who moved 
about from farm-house to farm-house, remaining at each till 
the stock of horn had been exhausted. Coming round 
periodically like the pedlar, to whom reference is elsewhere 
made, these itinerant tradesmen established relations of 
friendship with their customers. They generally belonged 
to the wandering tribe of gipsies, but they were quite civil 
and orderly in their behaviour. Their food and lodging they 
received free, and beyond that their charges were not heavy. 
In days when newspapers were scarce and dear, the news 
of public events travelled slowly. A copy of the London 
Times of the time of the Battle of Waterloo cost sixpence, 
and consisted of four pages of a small sheet, which, when 
spread out, was little bigger than an ordinary sized pocket 
handkerchief. Reports of murders and minor crimes, 
such as now help to swell the sale of our leading 
weeklies, were never heard of very far from the locality in 
which these occurred, but when a tragedy of unusual horror 
was committed, the intelligence was carried over the whole 
country by a class of newsmen, whose method of publication 
was after this manner : The various scenes were depicted 
on little pieces of canvas about two feet square in pictures of 
the rudest type. The first was, usually, a portrait of the 
criminal, whose countenance proved him a villain -of the 
deepest dye ; the next represented the actual perpetration of 

History of Sanquhar. 290 

the crime ; in some instances the victim, a woman, was seen 
seized by the murderer by the hair of the head, while from 
the wound inflicted by a long, glittering knife, ran a stream 
of blood, indicated by a big splash of red paint. Then 
followed the trial scene, which represented the judge perched 
up on a high bench, his head covered by an enormous wig, 
but his countenance giving no evidence of intellectual vigour 
or judicial serenity ; in truth, the whole judges, counsel, 
and criminal often bore a striking resemblance to each 
other, the artist's power of delineation being evidently 
limited to but one type of feature. Last of all came the 
execution. Upon a staring white ground a huge scaffold, 
black and appalling, was painted, and at the end of the 
noose attached to the cross-beam hung the murderer, 
his body writhing and his countenance distorted in his last 
agony. These gruesome pictures were mounted in the style 
of maps, and were attached by cords to the top of a poll, 
about seven feet high. A bundle of little pamphlets con- 
taining " The Last Speech and Dying Confession of ," 

and a little stick completed the showman's equipment. 
Taking up his position in the most public part of the street, 
he commenced to recite the particular incidents of the 
tragedy. He affected a style of speech which was a harsh 
monotone, and it was quickly recognised by the inhabitants, 
young and old. He was surrounded by an eager crowd, 
whose imaginations it was plain to see were excited by the 
harrowing details to which they listened. As he proceeded, 
the exhibitor, with the stick, drew the attention of his 
audience to the picture which illustrated the point which he 
had reached in his narration, and the pictures, arranged in 
order, were turned over the top of the staff till the complete 
tale had been unfolded. Copies of the pamphlet were then 
offered for sale, and were eagerly bought up, and carried off 
to be read at leisure. The practice was a most demoralising 
one, and happily it has been swept away by the newspaper 
press. The very last occasion on which it was seen was on 

300 History of Sanquhar. 

the execution of Mary Timney at Dumfries in the year 

In those days, when holiday-making was comparatively 
unknown, and the opportunities of relaxation and amuse- 
ment were nothing to what they have since become, the 
visits from time to time of travelling showmen were a source 
of great delight to the simple-minded country people. There 
were among themselves men of splendid build and enormous 
muscular power children of nature, whose finely propor- 
tioned, well-knit frames had been developed by regular 
simple habits of life and daily exercise in manual labour. 
They enjoyed in a super-eminent degree that choicest of 
earthly blessings mens sana in corpore sano and this 
gift had not been corrupted by illness or dissipation. When, 
therefore, the professional athlete, after the performance of 
some great feat of mere strength, strutted round the ring, as 
was his wont, and threw down his challenge to all the world, 
which in this instance meant only the wondering crowd that 
surrounded the arena, it was no uncommon sight to see a 
stalwart son of the soil elbowing his way to the front. 
Encouraged by the cheers of his friends, who regarded him 
as their champion, he, by the mere forthputting of the enor- 
mous power that lay slumbering in his gigantic frame, com- 
pletely vanquished the well-trained performer. Such an one 
was Hewetson of Glenmanna, of whom many a story is told 
of deeds done which seem almost incredible. His achieve- 
ments were the talk of the whole country side far and near, 
and, coming to the ear of the Duke of Buccleuch, led his 
grace to send for Glenmanna, who was one of his own 
tenants, in order that he might satisfy himself of their truth. 
The result was that the Duke carried him off to London to 
exhibit his powers, and it is related that the feats performed 
by him in the metropolis in presence of the Duke's guests filled 
them with amazement. Notices of these are to be found in 
the Dumfries Magazine and other publications of the period, 
and his monster putting-stone is enumerated in the appendix, 

History of Sanquhar. 301 

in the list of articles of antiquarian interest still to be seen 
in the parish. This stone weighs 150 Ibs. 

It was, therefore, not so much by performances of this 
kind, but rather by those in which agility and dexterity were 
displayed, that the minds of the common people were most 
readily impressed. Acrobatic feats and sleight of hand most 
puzzled their wits and excited their interest, while the height 
of the showman's profession was, in their eyes, occupied by 
the owner of a large circus or a wild-beast menagerie. The 
visits of these latter were of rarer occurrence, but, when they 
did occur, they created a profound sensation. The placarding 
of the streets with the large and highly-coloured posters 
raised a flutter of expectation in the breasts of old and young 
alike. The day of arrival was a red-letter day. Little work 
was done, vast crowds gathered from the whole region 
around, and the entire population who could move lined the 
streets to witness the imposing procession of gilded chariots 
and gaily-caparisoned steeds. The ground on which the 
" shows " congregated was the school playground, and on 
such great occasions the old schoolmaster, in letting the 
ground, made it a condition that his school children should 
be admitted to a special afternoon performance on terms 
which were within the reach of the poorest. The children 
assembled in the school, and marched across to the show 
with their master at their head. 

Among all the showmen, however, who visited Sanquhar, 
there was one who was their special favourite, and that was 
"Old Ord," as he was familiarly, nay affectionately, called by 
the Sanquhar people. Mr Ord belonged to the town of 
Biggar, and was altogether an exceptional man of his class. 
He was a thoroughly respectable man, and most respectably 
connected, his father, it is said, having been the parish 
minister of Ettrick, and the conduct of his business was most 
regular and orderly. Drinking and swearing were alike pro- 
hibited ; the reader will therefore understand that Ord was 
a showman of a type very rare in those, and still rarer in 

302 History of Sanquhar. 

these times. He was a tall, spare man ; and in his later years, 
when we knew him, he bore a singular resemblance in both 
face and figure to Professor Blackie of Edinburgh. When- 
ever he remained over Sabbath, he went to church ; his 
contribution to the door collection, then devoted to the relief 
of the poor, was a sovereign, a big coin to be seen in a church 
plate in those times ; and in his prosperous days, when he 
travelled in his private carriage, accompanied by his physician 
(for this was his practice), he spent much of his time reading 
the Bible. 

But Ord, like most men of his class, experienced the rough 
buffetings of fortune. When he came first to Sanquhar, 
about seventy years ago, he was in a very small way, his 
entire stud consisting of a donkey. He lingered about the 
place for some time, sufficiently long to enable the people to 
ascertain the true worth of the man. A feeling of sympathy 
for him sprang up, and a public subscription was opened to 
give him a fair start in life. The sum raised sufficed for the 
purchase of a good horse, which he trained to the ring. This 
proved the turning-point in his career, and the kindness of 
heart shewn to him by the Sanquhar people in the days of 
his adversity he never forgot. A strong feeling of mutual 
attachment and regard was engendered, and the many visits 
he paid to the town were not like the flying visits to other 
places of a similar size ; he was loth to leave the place and 
the people where and by whom he had been enabled first to 
place his foot on the ladder of fame and fortune. The towns- 
people had a sort of feeling that he belonged to them, and 
they followed his career with keen interest and sympathy. 
Mr Ord's son was for some time educated at Sanquhar school. 

Though reasonably prosperous, he never owned a big 
stud ; he had no desire apparently to possess a huge estab- 
lishment similar to those which move about in the season 
from town to town, whose employees are compelled to lead a 
strange, rough life. They may be said to live on the road. 
Arriving at a town, generally during the forenoon, the pro- 

Histo r i*y of Sanquhar. 303 

cession takes place two or three hours thereafter, a matinee 
performance fills up the greater portion of the afternoon, 
leaving them but little time to rest and prepare for the 
principal performance in the evening, which terminates at a 
late hour. No sooner has the place been cleared of the 
audience than a gang of carnp-followers proceed to strike 
tent ; all is bustle and confusion ; and, shouting, swearing, 
and jostling each other in their mad haste, they make a 
perfect bedlam, and the flare of the naphtha torches gives the 
scene a wild weird look. In an incredibly short space of 
time the whole is taken down, and packed on baggage 
waggons. A brief very brief interval for rest is allowed, 
when the word of command is passed round ; the scene of 
hurry, confusion, and shouting is enacted over again. Before 
morning breaks the whole has vanished like a dream, leaving 
the play-green silent and desolate, the grass trodden and 
crushed with innumerable feet, and the surface cut and dis- 
figured with the wheels of the ponderous waggons, while all 
around are strewn heaps of straw and steaming manure to 
pollute the freshness of the morning air. Meanwhile the 
poor showmen and showwomen are pushing along on their 
dark night march, and those who only a few hours before had 
been flying round the ring, glorious in their spangled dresses, 
and flushed with the plaudits of a vast crowd of admiring 
spectators, may now be seen, pale and exhausted, vainly 
trying to snatch an hour's sleep, while their wearied limbs 
can ill bear the jolting of the waggons on their forced 
march over the rough country roads. Such is the life of the 
showman, and a rough life it is. The only good sound sleep 
he gets is at the end of the week, for the stage of the 
journey between Saturday and Monday is taken on the 
Sabbath day at least, this has latterly grown to be the 
practice. The travelling of these establishments on Sabbath, 
particularly during church hours, along quiet country roads 
and through quiet country villages and parishes is one that, 
for the day, exercises a demoralising effect on the juvenile 

304 History of Sanquhar. 

population over a wide extent of country, and causes, when 
it does occur, just complaint by the respectable portion of 
the community. It cannot be justified on the ground of 
necessity ; this is proved by the fact that only in recent 
years has the practice commenced. The showman of 
a past generation had some regard for the sacredness of the 
day, and for the religious susceptibilities of his neighbours. 
Old Ord, of whom, however, we would more particularly 
speak, was, as will be gathered from what has already 
been said of him, a man of a very different stamp to 
the modern showman. In many respects, his ways were 
not the ways of his profession generally, not merely in 
his character and social habits, but likewise in his method 
of doing business. He took things more quietly and leisurely. 
His was an open-air performance, and continued to be so 
even when he became a very old man. He was the sole 
equestrian, but, in the estimation of all his admirers, he was 
a host in himself. The preparations made were of a very 
simple character. A broad circular path was formed by 
" flaying " the sods off the surface of the ground, and these 
being piled up all round the path formed a bank, which 
served to keep the youngsters off the course. Around the 
arena thus formed the grown people stood, while the juveniles 
squatted on the ground in front. Notwithstanding the lack 
of many of the accessories of his profession, and the 
absence of any professional training, Mr Ord, having 
learnt all that he knew by hard work and persever- 
ance, the entertainment he gave was undeniably one 
of genuine merit. It embraced a variety of the usual tricks 
of daring horsemanship, but the piece de resistance the 
item which took the fancy of old and young alike was of a 
burlesque kind, and was naturally kept to the end. It con- 
sisted of a representation of characters, half-a-dozen in 
number, all done on horseback. The old man retired to a 
neighbouring house to dress, and, after an interval, re- 
appeared in the ring, somewhat bulky in figure, for he bore 

History of Sanquhar. 305 

about his body, one over the other, and all fixed by a 
mysterious arrangement of strings, the whole series of vest- 
ments required for the representation. Into the centre of 
the ring had meanwhile been brought the various stage 
properties necessary. Mounted on his best trained horse off 
he went, twirling a shillelagh, dancing an Irish jig, and 
giving a wonderfully realistic sketch of Irish character. 
Flinging away stick and bonnet, he pulled a string and 
forthwith the entire suit fell away, revealing him next as a 
sailor, whereupon clapping on his head a straw hat, which had 
been tossed up to him by his attendant, he placed his arms 
a-kimbo, and danced a hornpipe to the tune of " Jack a Tar." 
This done, another string was drawn, and he appeared as a 
" soldier bold." To this succeeded " the drucken fishwife.'' 
With a clean white " mutch," the old man looked the part 
of the auld wife to perfection, his face, it is said, closely 
resembling that of Bettie Sloan, an old Sanquhar woman. 
He staggered about on the horse's back in the most reckless 
manner, but ever kept his feet. Still another string was 
pulled, and off flew the skirt, when, last of all, he appeared 
in all the glory of the tartan-kilt a warlike Highland chief- 
tain. There were handed up to him a bonnet and plume, a 
shield and a gleaming broadsword. Rousing his lagging 
steed, with a hoarse roar, he flew round the ring, his face 
aglow with the passion of war, cut and thrust, parried and 
fenced, as if engaged in a desperate single-handed combat. 
On the duel went with increasing determination and fury to 
the inspiring strains of " Rob Roy Macgregor O," played by 
his fiddler. Higher and higher. rose the enthusiasm of the 
rustic crowd, till, both man and horse exhausted, he sprang 
to the ground, amid a perfect whirlwind of applause. The 
transformation could go no further, for he had now got to 
the bare skin, and thus ended a display which can never be 
forgotten by those who had the good fortune to witness it. 

Another favourite representation of his was what he dig- 
nified with the title of " The St. Petersburg Courier," and 


306 History of Sanquhar. 

consisted of his riding six bare-backed horses abreast. With 
his feet planted on the outside pair (and this he was only 
enabled to do by the length of his legs, which were dispro- 
portionately long for even a tall man like him), he made the 
circuit of the course a few times, then liberated a pair of 
the horses, which immediately dashed to the front ; by and 
bye another pair were freed, and so in pairs they pursued 
each other till, gently reining in the pair which he continued 
to ride, he allowed the first and then the second pair to over- 
take him, each pair as they drew up resuming their places 
in the team. This was repeated time after time, and the 
exhibition was justly regarded as a good example both of 
training and horsemanship. 

Variety was given to the entertainment by his son-in-law, 
Delaney, also a tall man, who was equally great in his 
department of acrobat. He turned somersaults with 
perfect ease, and bent his body into shapes and forms 
wondeii'ul to behold. One feat which he performed will 
itself give an idea of his capabilities. He mounted step by 
step a ladder 12 or 15 feet in height, set up on the bare 
ground, and totally unsupported. Slowly and steadily he 
ascended, till he had reached the top. The ladder was so 
constructed that the one side, with the steps, could be 
detached by a jerk from the other. Seizing then with his 
right hand the head of the one side, he with his left sharply 
jerked away the other with the steps attached, which then 
fell to the ground. Poising himself on the top of the bare 
pole which he grasped, he swung his body gradually upwards, 
and finished by standing on his head on its very top. 

The entertainment being open and free, the reader 
may ask How was the establishment kept up ? It was 
by a lottery, the tickets for which were sold round the 
ring in the intervals of the performance, and by the proceeds 
of a dramatic representation, which took place in the Council 
House, the favourite piece acted being " Gilderoy." 

Ord, having reached what for him was a state of high 

History of Sanquhar. 307 

prosperity when his stud embraced half a score of valuable 
horses, bethought himself that he would take a journey over 
the Border, and seek " fresh fields and pastures new." He 
travelled over a considerable part of England, and eventually 
found his way into Wales. Here a sad disaster befel him, 
for, by their having drunk water impregnated with some 
poisonous substance, he lost his whole stud except two. He 
retraced his steps to Scotland, sore stricken in spirit. For 
some years longer he wandered up and down the country, 
but in a sadly-reduced state, and finally disappeared from the 
road about thirty years ago. His ashes rest in the church- 
yard of his native town, Biggar. R.I.P. 

The lame fiddler appeared in his old haunts at fitful 
intervals long after his old master had passed away, 
and many a copper was tossed to him for the sake of 
" Old Ord." 

There were but few amusements to relieve the dulness and 
gloom of the long winter nights. During the day, whenever 
frost occurred, the game of curling was followed with great 
spirit, and in the evenings the games were played over again 
by the curlers either at their own firesides or in the public- 
houses over a "dram." The opportunities of curling were more 
regular and extended in the early years of the century than 
they have been in recent times. At least, it is a prevailing 
impression among the older people that the seasons were 
then more severe, and that, from whatever cause, the winters 
now are more open and mild, as a rule, and this idea seems 
to be borne out by the records of the Curling Society, which 
shew a comparatively unbroken round of games winter after 
winter. Though that was the case, there were, however, 
many weeks of every season when there was no frost, and 
other forms of amusement had sought after. Among 
these, draught playing, was practised to a considerable extent, 
and there were many excellent players in the town. Here, 
and in the neighbouring parish of Kirkconnel, especially in 
the latter, there was a group of players who could hold their 

308 History of Sanquhar. 

own with the best exponents of the game. Wylie, " The 
Herd Laddie," and the world's champion at one period, came 
to Kirkconnel when quite a lad. He had already attracted 
attention as a promising player, and, finding a congenial 
society in the little village, he stayed about the place for 
weeks, having nightly encounters with the more notable 
players. In Jamie Steel he found his match, and the young 
lad, whose fame was destined to spread wherever the game 
was known, confessed that, during his sojourn in Kirkconnel, 
his play was much improved. 

Amateur theatricals were likewise a source of amusement. 
A company composed of young men of the town performed 
winter after winter. It cannot be said they displayed any 
great degree of histrionic talent, but their efforts proved 
quite satisfactory to their audiences. At the same time, 
there were individual cases where an intelligent and sym- 
pathetic rendering of the part was really accomplished. In 
the " Gentle Shepherd," for example, which was naturally a 
special favourite with such an audience, illustrating, as it 
did, incidents which were those of their own daily lives, the 
uncouth manners and broad humour of " Bauldie " were 
admirably interpreted by Charlie M'lver. In successive 
representations in later times of this comedy the part was 
assumed by others, but it was generally allowed that none 
could compare to " Charlie." The whole of the characters, 
male and female, were sustained by men, none of the girls 
ever venturing upon the stage ; any one who did would have 
been held lacking in modesty. Female parts were assigned, 
therefore, to those who were of moderate stature, and of that 
feminine cast of countenance which would readily lend itself 
to a successful make-up, for this, even more than the acting, 
was held of the highest importance; and thus "The Button," 
as he was called, a lively little man, played the part of 
Manse. So completely was he disguised, and so perfectly 
did he look the old crone, that on the last occasion on which 
he ever played, one of the audience who sat near the stage, 

History of Sanquhar. 309 

and who knew him well, inquired of a neighbour " Whae's 
Mause ?" and received for answer "Whae's Mause ? D'ye 
no ken 'The Button?' He's as like what his auld aunt 
Mary was as she had sputten him." But " The Button " 
revealed himself before all was done. Those who have seen 
the play know that it is brought to a close by the singing of 
" Corn Rigs and Barley Rigs." The whole of the company 
had assembled on the stage in a circle, and the chorus began. 
"The Button," tired of the restraint to which he had been 
subjected the whole evening, and entering thoroughly into 
the spirit of the occasion, suddenly broke forth on his own 
account. He had a fine tenor voice, and suiting the action 
to the words, he sang this fine old song in a style that fairly 
captivated the audience. 

The ideas of stage representation possessed by amateur 
companies were certainly crude and original, and would have 
sent an habitue of city theatres into fits of laughter, but in 
this case ignorance was bliss, and these theatrical entertain- 
ments served the admirable purpose of brightening by 
innocent amusement the minds of simple country folks, whose 
lives at the best were dull and monotonous enough. 
Incidents, the humour and ludicrousness of which were, how- 
ever, apparent to even such a simple audience, did sometimes 
occur, as, for instance, in the representation of Sir Walter 
Scott's " Rob Roy." The person who sustained the role of 
Andrew Fairservice had diligently learnt his part, learnt it 
in truth too well. The little manual contained, at a certain 
point, the stage direction (Enter A ndrew Fairservice~drunk~). 
He failed to understand that he was simply to act as herein 
directed that is, swagger on to the stage as if in a drunken 
condition but at the proper moment he rushed on the stage, 
with neither staggering gait nor befuddled countenance, but 
straight and steady, and having assumed what he thought a 
striking attitude, announced himself by shouting " Enter 
Andrew Fairservice, drunk." This ridiculous contretemps 
fairly brought down the house. 

310 History of Sanqular. 

These representations were given in the Council House, in 
the principal room, which, however, only measured about 
400 square feet on the floor. The stage was necessarily very 
limited, and in order to accommodate as many as possible, 
the audience sat in one steep gallery, reaching from the verge 
of the stage to the back, those on the top bench having to 
bend low under the very ceiling. Night after night the 
place was packed to suffocation, but in spite of the crush and 
the heat, the company made, performers and spectators 
together, a right merry party. 

" Douglas," " The -Rose of Ettrick Vale," " Rob Roy," 
" Pizarro," and other dramatic pieces, were put on the stage 
from time to time, but the " Gentle Shepherd " it was that 
most correctly hit the popular taste. 

The foregoing is a sketch, and only a sketch, of the social 
condition and economics of the life of the inhabitants of this 
and many other districts of Scotland during the period 
immediately prior to the introduction of the railway system 
into the country. 

Let us now glance at the effects, immediate and ultimate, 
of the introduction of railways on the life and manners of the 
inhabitants of every region into which they have penetrated, 
for this was an event which amounted to a revolution, the 
results of which were deep and far-reaching. The first effect 
was a quickening of trade, caused by the circulation of the 
money paid in wages in connection with their construction. 
The bands of navvies employed English, Scotch, and Irish 
were a reckless and improvident class, and the whole of 
their earnings were spent in the gratification of their 
appetites. The public-house came in for a large share, but 
every branch of trade benefited to a certain extent ; and the 
tradesmen and dealers who were careful to make hay while 
the sun shone, found themselves speedily in a position of ease 
and comfort. This immediate quickening of trade was a result 
of railway making which had been foreseen by the bulk of 
the country people, and was a consideration which largely 

History of Sanquhdr. 311 

accounted for the extraordinary enthusiasm with which they 
hailed the advent of this new and expeditious mode of 
travelling, but they had failed to grasp what its enduring 
results in the course of time would prove. No sooner, how- 
ever, was the work completed, and the floating population, to 
which its construction gave rise, had gone, than the people had 
leisure to realise that, so far from the railway having a per- 
manent influence towards the improvement and development 
of trade, the tendency was to be altogether in the opposite 
direction, so far as small country towns were concerned. In 
addition to the trade of the resident population, Sanquhar 
had benefited to a considerable extent from the passenger 
traffic by coach and otherwise, and by the extensive cartage 
of coals from the pits in the vicinity all over a wide district 
of country. The whole of the passenger traffic was 
immediately, and the large proportion of the goods traffic 
gradually, but surely, swept from the countiy roads, the 
result being that, when the influence of this new power had 
had time to have its full effect, the trade of such small 
towns was found to be irretrievably ruined, and the peace 
and quiet of many a country district, after the din and 
stir which awoke it up for a brief period had ceased, reigned 
more profound than ever. Speaking of trade, it may be here 
incidentally remarked that the streets of country towns have 
likewise been rendered more silent still by a change in the 
method of trading of late years, for which the keener compe- 
tition in all branches of enterprise is principally, and the 
railway system in a minor degree, responsible. Part of the 
produce of the farms, butter, eggs, &c., was carried to the 
town to market, and this was a part of her work, which, 
though the burden was sometimes very considerable, was 
cheerfully undertaken by the dairymaid. It was a pleasant 
outing, and further, as it afforded possible opportunities of 
flirtation with one or other of the young gallants who might 
offer to carry her basket, or give her a good long Scotch 
convoy on her way home, she, with a true woman's instinct, 

312 History of Sanquhar. 

made careful preparations for going to the town. Her hair 
was put up with special care, and her dress consisted of a 
loose jacket, called a "juip," made of printed cotton, the 
favourite pattern being a very small pink tick or stripe, tied 
at the neck by a bright ribbon, formed at the throat into a 
neat bow or rosette, and her best and newest striped drugget 
petticoat, worn comparatively short. A sun-bonnet, clean 
and well starched, shaded her comely face, which had the 
hue of ruddy health and happy content, while, as often as 
not, she tripped along barefoot, which she was none ashamed 
to do, particularly if she was conscious of the possession of 
a shapely foot and a well-turned ankle. No one received a 
more hearty welcome by the shopkeeper than the dairymaid, 
for not only did the sweet fragrant rolls of butter and the fresh 
laid eggs, swathed in the folds of a towel spotlessly clean, 
which she bore in the basket over her arm, find a ready sale 
among his customers, but as their payment was generally, on 
the system of barter, taken out in kind, consisting of house- 
hold necessaries, the transaction was one of double advantage 
to him. 

This practice has almost entirely disappeared, having given 
place to a system of travelling-shops. From each small town 
a string of carts belonging to the various traders daily scour 
the country in all directions, vicing with each other for the 
trade, not only of the farm-houses, but likewise of every 
cottage within reach. They bear loads of every conceivable 
thing, in the way of provisions, required by the housewife. 
A considerable change had already taken place in the diet of 
town families ; baker's bread and biscuits having been sub- 
stituted for porridge and oatmeal cakes, and the consumption 
of such things as jams and jellies, tinned meats and other 
dainties had become very great ; but up to the time, about 
a dozen years ago, when these travelling shops began to go 
their rounds, this change of diet had not been adopted 
among the families of shepherds and agricultural labourers. 
With these fancy articles brought to their doors, however, 

History of Sanquhar. 313 

and pressed upon them by the traders, they have been 
gradually led to abandon to a great extent their former 
simple and wholesome diet. For this great and grievous 
change the housewives must be held responsible, and a heavy 
responsibility it is, for to it is in large measure due the 
deterioration in physique which is observable in the classes 
referred to. Mothers have, unfortunately, had more regard 
to their own ease and convenience than to economy in house- 
hold management and to the health and physical well-being 
of their children. 

In the matter of dress, likewise, the changes were com- 
paratively unimportant. The inhabitants of country districts 
had no acquaintance with the vagaries of fashion, which 
nowhere, it is true, either in town or country, were then so 
frequent or extraordinary as they have since become, owing 
to the vastly increased wealth now distributed over large 
classes of the population. Their dress more nearly conformed 
to the necessities of their calling, or of the climate, and, 
therefore, the prevailing style continued very much in 
the form in which it had been handed down by a previous 
generation. In rural parts, indeed, there was then less 
distinction "of classes ; the people were all, with very few 
exceptions, more on a general level of material condition. 
There were among them no social leaders, from whom new 
ideas in dress might be borrowed ; the only glimpse they 
could have of the prevailing fashion was from a lady-pas- 
senger by the coach. 

But the effects of the railway, in leading to an assimila- 
tion in manners both as to food and dress of the people in 
the town and country, are self-evident, through the more 
frequent and regular intercourse which was secured between 
the inhabitants of one part and another, so that those in 
rural districts have been led to abandon their simple tastes, 
and to ape the more artificial, or if you will, refined tastes of 
the dwellers in towns. 

Another effect of the railway was to accelerate and increaee 


314 History of Sanqii kar. 

the depopulation of the country districts, to which reference 
has been made. It is true that in Scotland, more than in 
any other country, people of humble condition prized highly, 
and made in many instances considerable sacrifices to secure 
to their children, the benefits of education, brought within 
their reach by the excellent system of parish schools. A 
large proportion of the masters of those schools were univer- 
sity bred men (the profession of schoolmaster was that upon 
which many " stickit ministers " had to fall back), and so it 
came about that the bright and promising scholar was able 
to gather a knowledge of the classics, sufficient to enable him 
to step up into the university, and the ranks of the students 
were to such a large extent swelled by raw country lads who 
had to " cultivate philosophy on a little oatmeal," for their 
parents' circumstances compelled them to practise in their 
scholastic days the humble style of living in which they had 
been brought up. They were sprung from a shrewd, hard- 
headed race, and the habits of industry, of self-restraint, and 
self-reliance, to which they had been accustomed, enabled 
them to hold their own in the contest for scholastic honours, 
and afterwards in the arena of public life, against those who 
had been nursed in the lap of luxury, and enjoyed the 
advantage of influential social connections. 

The numbers, however, who were thus drawn away to 
other spheres of labour than their own native vales, or who 
voluntarily migrated to the towns, or even went beyond 
seas in quest of their fortunes, never represented at any time 
more than the natural surplus of population, the regular 
excess of births over deaths ; in truth, in many country 
parishes, in spite of the drain from these causes, there was 
rather a tendency to increase of the population ; but the 
introduction of railways marked the point from which a 
movement of the inhabitants of country parishes to the large 
centres of industry and commerce has gone on in ever- 
increasing volume. The extent of this shifting of population 
is revealed in the last census returns, those of 1891, in figures 

History of Sanquhar. Si 5 

which have startled the country, and caused grave concern 
in the minds of thoughtful men. It is to be attributed to 
the double influence of, on the one hand, the attractions of 
town life, consisting of a higher rate of wages, and amuse- 
ments and other social considerations, which powerfully affect 
the imagination of people whose daily life and habits are 
simple and homely ; and on the other, of the expulsive force 
exercised by the short-sighted policy of the land-owning class, 
according to which many of our small country towns are, as 
it were, bound with an iron ring of restriction. " Hitherto 
thou shalt go, and no further," is the fiat of the landlord a 
fiat as irresistible in the present state of the law as the 
divine decrees, and has effectually quelled the enterprise of 
what might have been thriving communities in many districts 
of the country. So long as communication was difficult and 
expensive, the rural population remained in a condition of 
passive submission to a state of matters which there seemed 
no hope of bettering, and from which there appeared no way 
of escape. The history of one generation was repeated in the 
next, and so long as they knew no better, so long did the 
people remain contented with their lot. But the railway 
changed all that. The opportunity was now offered to those 
living in out-of-the-way places to make an excursion into the 
great world, which had been hitherto beyond their ken. The 
cheap trips which were organised by the railway companies 
brought enormous numbers of country folks to the large 
towns. No sooner did these crowds step on the streets than 
they stood still, bewildered and amazed. The houses appeared 
to the eyes of those who had been accustomed all their lives 
to little low-roofed thatch cottages as if they towered up to 
heaven. They gazed, open-mouthed, while their minds were 
awed with the vast crowds of human beings as they passed 
along with keen, eager faces and quick hurried steps, and 
with the roaring tide of traffic. By and bye, when they had 
become somewhat accustomed to these marvellous sights and 
sounds, their attention was attracted by the shop-windows, 

316 History of Sanquhar. 

and there they speedily found fresh cause for wonder, for 
there they saw such a display of wealth and splendour as 
they had never dreamt of. 

Many of them dared not venture out of sight of the rail- 
way station, fearful lest they should lose themselves in what 
appeared to them a labyrinth of streets and lanes, from 
which, once they were entangled, there would be no hope of 
escape ; but though their sight-seeing was thus of a veiy 
limited extent, they came away profoundly impressed with 
the greatness and glory, the wealth and magnificence of the 
city. The whole presented to their wondering eyes and their 
simple minds a dazzling vision, which, on their return, they 
vainly tried to describe to the folks at home, who in turn 
longed to view the wondrous sight. One can easily imagine 
how powerfully it affected the younger people, teaching them 
to sCorn their slow dull life and simple ways, and firing them 
with the desire to see more of the world, of which they had 
had but a passing glimpse, and to share in the excitement 
and pleasure of a life which seemed to their unsophisticated 
minds one of supreme happiness. Their spirit was stirred in 
them ; no longer could they settle contentedly down to their 
quiet humdrum existence ; they must hie away to where 
fame and fortune were to be reaped, and where pleasure 
waited on them at every step. 

In another way the railway operated towards the depopu- 
lation of rural districts. Prior to this time there had existed 
in country parts a large number of small factories and manu- 
facturing works and many home industries, principal among 
which was hand-loom weaving, affording employment to 
thousands of families, but the railway tended to draw together 
these industries into large centres. Immense factories 
sprang up, in which the power-loom was introduced ; the 
coal and iron industries, now increasing by gigantic strides, 
offered a rate of wages which, notwithstanding the many 
drawbacks of the work, proved an irresistible attraction to 
those whose earnings were barely sufficient to keep life in, 

History of Sanquhar. 3 1 7 

and the consequent development of the general trade of the 
towns in all its branches caused the tide of migration to rise 
higher and higher. With regard to those who still inhabit 
the rural parishes, notable changes, as has been said, have 
occurred within the last forty years in their habits, in the 
matter of food and dress, and these changes are directly 
traceable, in a large degree, to the influence of the improved 
communication brought about by the system of railways. 
Brought into contact, as they never were before, with the 
denizens of the large towns, the country people have been 
led to discard their former simple habits, and to adopt the 
more artificial habits of townsfolk. From every centre of 
commerce there issues a perfect army of commercial men, 
who spread themselves over the whole land, pressing the 
sale of articles of daily use preserved fruits, spices, tinned 
meats, and a countless variety of articles of foreign produce, 
now brought into our ports from every quarter of the globe. 
These again are carried to the very doors of the people in 
the remotest corners of the country by strings of vans and 
carts, and thus the habits of the people have been entirely 
changed, some will say, corrupted. 

What is true with respect to food is equally true in regard 
to dress. The stray visit of the pedlar was the only oppor- 
tunity afforded of seeing or purchasing anything of a fancy 
kind in the way of dress. In truth, his pack was made up 
rather of the finer sorts of house plenishing, linen and the 
like, and even the stock of the draper and clothier in small 
towns was almost wholly composed of woollen materials 
designed for wear, and not for display. The tailors or 
dressmakers in Sanquhar could be almost counted on the 
fingers of the hand, the system of working in the homes 
of their customers, subsequently referred to as practised by 
tailors, was likewise followed by dressmakers, who were 
expected to finish a lady's dress in a day, so plain were 
the fashions of the time ; and, perhaps, to cut out a 
child's frock, to be sewed by the mother at her leisure, her 

3 1 8 History of Sa nquhar. 

wage for this being Is per day and her food. Now, dress- 
makers can be counted by the dozen. They pay periodical 
visits to the large towns " to see the fashions," and make the 
purchases necessary to enable them to keep their customers 
abreast of the times. Magazines giving directions for the 
manipulation of these fashions are read not only by all 
engaged in the business of dressmaking, but likewise in many 
private families, shewing to what an extent women's thoughts 
are now given to their personal adornment, in contrast to the 
habits of their grandmothers. 

In the department of millinery likewise, the change is 
noteworthy. Down to fifty years ago, the milliner, with her 
ribbons, lace, and gum-flowers, had not yet appeared, nor had 
the flimsy, fantastic creations with which she now crowns the 
head of her fair devotees. Our mothers contented themselves 
with good, plain straw, their only ambition in this connection 
being to be possessed of a " leghorn." These leghorn straws, 
though expensive at the outset, served as the foundation of 
their head-gear for years, and frequently passed to the 
daughter at the death of the mother. At intervals they 
were confided to the care of the straw-bonnet maker, the 
prototype of the modern milliner, by whom they were taken 
to pieces, cleaned, and remodelled in the favourite form of 
the day. The advantage of the leghorn was that, besides 
being much superior in appearance, it was the only kind of 
straw that would stand the cleaning, by which process it was 
turned out as good as new. A few yards of ribbon, arranged 
according to the taste of the wearer, and by which it was 
tied under the chin, was all the expense incurred in the 

While, therefore, the influence of the railway on small 
country towns and rural districts has spelt ruin to trade, and 
has, for the plain, homely, frugal habits of the people, substi- 
tuted a more artificial style of living, it, at the same time, 
has brought in its train incalculable advantages of an educa- 
tive and social character. In this respect, it has proved a 

History of Sanquhar. 319 

potent factor in the work of civilisation and refinement. 
Both in the facilities which it afforded in the dissemination 
of the daily press, which, on the abolition of the paper duty, 
was so largely extended, and likewise in the numberless other 
agencies for the public information and instruction, the rail- 
way played an important part, and, but for it, the growth and 
development of these agencies would have been less rapid 
and complete. There has been an undoubted improvement 
in the manners of the people, due doubtless to the opening 
up of the country arid the closer inter-communion of one 
district with another and of class with class, and the death - 
blow has been given to many an objectionable feature of the 
social life of the rural population. There is one change, 
however, which we cannot but regret, and has, by many who 
have studied the matter closely, been largely attributed to 
this inter-communion brought about by the railway, viz., 
the disappearance to a great extent of the " characters," 
who were to be found in country towns persons of strong 
individuality, of ready wit, or eccentricity of manner. 
Whether the railway and the altered conditions of 
life in which it resulted are responsible, as has been 
supposed, for the gradual disappearance and threatened 
extinction of this race of characters whose sayings and doings 
gave a zest to the life of their neighbours and friends, and 
are an interesting subject of study, will probably remain a 
matter of opinion, but that they are diminishing in number 
is unquestionable, and the fact that this is so renders tamer 
and less interesting the daily ways of our country people, 
and is a cause of regret to all who interest themselves in the 
study of Scottish life and character. Typical examples of 
them are to be found in the pages of Sir Walter Scott, where 
the peculiarities of their mental constitution and manners 
are admirably pourtrayed, and where the social life of the 
Scottish people of the olden time is drawn with inimitable 
power and felicity. 



H E following is extracted from the " History of the 
Curling Society of Sanquhar," written by the 
author at the Society's request on the occasion of 
its centenary, in the year 1874 : 
The origin of the Society is given in a Minute of date 21st 
January, 1774 " On which day near sixty curlers met upon 
Sanquhar Loch, and had an agreeable game at curling. In 
the evening they dined together in the Duke of Queensberry's 
Arms in Sanquhar. After dinner, it was proposed that they 
should form themselves into a Society, under the name of 
the Sanquhar Society of Curlers, and that a Master should 
be chosen annually ; which proposal was agreed to, and 
several other regulations respecting the constitution and 
order of the Society were made. Accordingly one of 
the oldest curlers being chosen preses, appointed a Com- 
mittee of the best qualified to examine all the rest 
concerning the Curler's Word and Grip. Those who pre- 
tended to have these, and were found defective, were sub- 
jected to a fine ; and those who made no pretensions were 
instructed. Then Mr Alexander Bradfute, in South Mains, 
was chosen Master for the present year. The terms and 
prices of admission to the Society were Submission and 
Obedience to the Master, discretion and civility to all the 
Members, and Secrecy ; Fourpence sterling to be paid by 
every one in the Parish, and Sixpence to be paid by any one 
without the Parish as their admission ; and liberty was 

History of SanquJiar. 321 

granted to the Clerk and some other members to add what- 
ever new members were, and to report those to the Society 
at their next meeting." 

We do not doubt that the game was practised long before 
this period ; indeed, it is apparent from this very minute 
that this was so in Sanquhar ; the fact that in 1774 so many 
as sixty curlers met on the ice proves that even then the 
practice of the game here had already become very general ; 
and we believe Sanquhar possesses perhaps the oldest Society 
in Scotland, with a recognised Master or Presesand a regular 
constitution, by which the game was regularly and systema- 
tically practised, and having an unbroken history from 
the date of its organisation down to the present day. 

The ninth article of the Constitution that " at any play 
among the rinks the reckoning not to exceed sixpence each 
player " points to a custom prevalent at one time of meet- 
ing in the evening, in a social capacity, at the end of an 
important play, such as for the parish medal. In connection 
with inter-parochial games again, this social entertainment 
took the shape of a dinner, with a liberal supply of toddy. 
These " Dinners and Drinks" were for a long time the stake 
played for between parishes, and were grand affairs, the 
ticket being five shillings. This is a rather startling figure, 
as money went in these days, considering that the members 
of the Society were for the most part working men, among 
whom it was regarded as a point of honour to attend these 
dinners. Many were reduced to the direst shifts ; frequently 
borrowing had to be resorted to, by way of concealing the 
poor curler's poverty from all but the lender. 

There would appear to have been something akin to free- 
masonry in the Society's constitution, for at a very early 
stage of its history a dispute arose among the members as to 
what was the true Curler Word and Grip, and the Society 
found it necessary to issue an authoritative declaration on 
the subject, which is in these terms : In order to prevent 
all dispute concerning the Curler Word and Grip, the Master, 


322 History of Sanqiihar. 

who always is Preses during his office, and the rest of the 
Society, have agreed that the following shall be held and 
reputed the Curler Word and Grip of this Society for the 
future : 


If you'd be a Curler keen 

Stand right, look even, 

Sole well, shoot straight, and sweep clean. 


Gripping hands in the common manner of shaking hands is the gripping 
the hand of the curling-stone. The thumb of the person instructed thrust 
in betwixt the thumb and forefinger of the examinator or instructor signi- 
fies "running a port." The little finger of the person examined or 
instructed linked with the little finger of the examinator or instructor 
means an " in-ring. " 

Each member at his admission to the Society was initiated 
in the mysteries of the Craft, being for this purpose conveyed 
upstairs to one of the upper rooms of the Town Hall. The 
fees exacted from the entrants were, according to the rules, 
to go to the funds of the Society. There is, however, a note- 
able instance in which this rule was departed from, when the 
proceeds had a very different destination. Of date 10th 
December, 1800, we have a minute : " The following were 
admitted members of the Society (here follows a list of 
twenty names, which, however, we withhold, though we may 
mention that it includes the names of the Provost and the 
minister of the parish), all of whom paid fourpence each, 
making six shillings and eightpence, which was drunk at 
the desire of the company." The questionableness of such a 
proceeding is somewhat condoned by the candour and honesty 
with which the fact is recorded. 

The original playing strength of the Society was seven 
rinks of eight men each, and a corps-de-reserve, presided over 
by an officer appointed by the Society, who was styled com- 
mander of the corps-de-reserve. Through time the title 
commander was dropped, and he was styled shortly, though 

History V/ Sanqv. h ar. 323 

rather incorrectly, the corps- de-reserve. From this body 
drafts were constantly taken to fill up blanks in the 
regular rinks of those who had, in this probationary service, 
proved themselves most worthy of promotion, and by whom 
the promotion was regarded as a proud distinction. There 
has been no corps-de-reserve for many years. 

It was the practice, as has been observed, for a long time 
in all spiels between this and neighbouring parishes to 
play for dinner and drink. The spiel consisted of two games 
of nine shots each the one played for the dinner, and the 
other for the drink. In this way it happened sometimes 
that the dinner was won by the one parish, and the drink 
by the other, but frequently the Sanquhar curlers enjoyed 
both at their neighbours' expense. The shortness of the 
games, too, accounts for the frequency with which certain 
rinks were soutered that is, did not get a single shot. In 

a game with a certain parish, it is recorded " got not one 

game, and but very few shots. They were made souters in 
two rinks, and one shot only prevented the third from 
sharing the same fate." This practice continued down to the 
year 1830, when, by a resolution of the Society, it was 
abolished. At the same time a motion was carried " That 
henceforth all parish spiels be decided by shots." Previously 
they were decided by the number of winning rinks, regard- 
less of the aggregate number of shots gained by either. 

A rather startling announcement is made in a minute of 
January, 1782, where we are informed that "Walter M'Turk, 
surgeon, was expelled from the Society for offering them a 

gross insult, in calling them a parcel of d d scoundrels." 

A very serious offence, no doubt, and demanding, in vindica- 
tion of their own self-respect, the condemnation of the 
Society ; but to shew that in their action they were not 
animated by vindictiveness, but by a regard to the interests 
of good order and public morality, and that they were not 
void of the grace of forgiveness that they were willing to 
receive back to their bosom a weak and erring but repentant 

324 History of Sanquhar. 

son it is further recorded, under date 17th December, 1788, 
" Mr Walter M'Turk, surgeon, was this day chosen preses." 
Truly this was a literal fulfilment of the saying in the parable, 
"Bring forth the best robe and put it on him," and is an 
honour to the Christian spirit of the Society. 

The first game with a neighbouring parish was played 
with Kirkconnel on 19th January, 1776, followed by one on 
the 25th of the same month with Crawfordjolm. These two 
were the only parishes with which games were played down 
to 1784, when the first game with Morton was played. Then 
Penpont is added to the number in 1804, Durisdeer in 1830, 
and New Cumnock in 1844. Kirkconnel, Morton, Penpont, 
and New Cumnock are the parishes with which the great has been held, and in them 
we have truly found "foemen worthy of our steel." Indeed, 
it is a question whether there be in all Scotland a district of 
similar extent to Nithsdale where the same number of first- 
class curlers could be found. Many a time Sanquhar has 
had to lower her colours on a well-fought field, but when the 
balance of her gains and losses has been struck, she is found 
fairly entitled to claim the pre-eminence over all her rivals. 

From the earliest period of their history the Societies of 
Sanquhar and Wanlockhead have been on terms of the closest 
friendship. Although Wanlockhead is situated within the 
parish of Sauquhar, the distance between the two places, eight 
miles, necessarily led to the formation of a separate society 
there, and, since 1831, games between the two have been of 
frequent occurrence. By way of cultivating the friendly 
feeling that existed between them, it became a rule that these 
matches should be played at Sanquhar and Wanlockhead alter- 
nately, contrary to the usual practice of the losers going back 
to the ice of the winners. The curlers of Sanquhar have a deep 
sense of obligation to those of Wanlockhead for the valuable 
aid they have always been ready to render in the games with 
the strong parish of New Cumnock. These games began in 
1844. The wide extent of the latter, a,nd her great command 

History of Sanquhar. 325 

of players, rendered the possibility of Sanqubar competing 
with her at her full strength with any prospect of success 
extremely problematical, and New Cumnock declined to 
break her numbers. Sanquhar determined, however, to 
make a gallant attempt, and while her own enrolled strength 
was at the time only seven rinks of eight men each, she had 
to muster eighteen rinks of nine men each. Every available 
man who could be got who had ever thrown a stone, how- 
ever slight his acquaintance with the art, was pressed into 
the service. So urgent, indeed, was the call that some who 
had never even pla^-^ i stone were taken on to the ice the 
previous evening, and, by the li^ht of the moon, received 
their first lesson. The want of stones was no less severely 
felt than the want of men ; and many a worker's " pace " 
(stones which were hung on the beam to keep the Vveb on 
tl\e stretch, to which use old and disused curling-stones were 
frequently put), was unstrung, while others were hauled out 
from among the coals below the bed (a common place for the 
storage of coal in these days), their soles, it may well be 
conceived, being far from in a good condition. With such 
raw recruits and with such weapons, it required no gift of 
prophecy to predict the result. To extinguish the last ray 
of hope for Sanquhar, the ice proved to be covered with 
water, in consequence of which the game proved more a 
match of strength than of skill. The greater part of the 
Sanquhar curlers Avere " harried," that is, could not reach 
the " tee." The victory for New Cumnock was most com- 
plete, only three rinks from Sauquhar escaping the general 
wreck. One rink was soutered. Sanquhar lost by 168 shots. 
On the next occasion the aid of Wanlockhead was invoked, 
and the result was very different. The crushing majority of 
the previous match was reduced to twelve, and in 184-8 it 
was converted into a victory for Sanquhar by two shots, since 
which time down to 1867, when circumstances deprived her 
of the help of Wanlockhead, Sanquhar kept her honour 

326 History of Sanquhar. 

This " foreign spiel," as it was called at Wanlockhead, was 
an event which caused great excitement in the village, and 
does still. Up betimes in the morning, and well breakfasted, 
with a comforter from "Noble's" in the pocket, well-trimmed 
besom in hand, and curling-stone handles slung around their 
necks, they set forth, and from the summit of Sanquhar 
Muir, the usual place of rendezvous, on a hard crisp morning, 
the mist creeping gradually up the hillside and disappearing 
before the rising sun, which was appearing like a ball of fire 
above the horizon, to see them come in sight over the distant 
hill top, or come pouring down Glenc'yne and Men nock, 
reminded one of the scenes so graphically described by our 
late townsman, Dr Simpson, of the days when the Covenanters 
were wont to wend their way over these same hills to the 
Conventicles in some quiet moorland spot. Arrived on the 
ground, their opponents singled out, and the game fairly 
started, they were not long in shewing of what stuff they 
were made. Almost without exception tall, strapping, young 
men, strong and hardy, they were trained to curling from 
their youth up. Their discipline, too, was perfect. At that 
time, when there were eight men in a rink, this was most 
noticeable. Arranged three and three on the two sides of 
the rink, they waited with the greatest attention till the 
stone was delivered, following it closely and eagerly in its 
course; till, at the call of the skip, "soop," down came the 
besoms like lightning, hands were clasped, the feet kept time 
to the rapid strokes, and no exertion was spared till the 
stone was landed at the desired spot, when the party, having 
drawn a long breath, rewarded the player with the shout 
" Weel played, mon." 

In Kinglake's " History of the Crimean War," observation 
is made upon the different sounds that proceed from the 
soldiers of different nations when engaged in battle. It is 
said, too, that in the British army, the roar or cry of regi- 
ments belonging to the different nationalities of which it is 
composed English, Scotch, and Irish is as distinctly 

History of Sanquhar. 327 

marked as the characteristics of the different races. So, the 
sound proceeding from a rink of Wanlockhead curlers was 
unmistakable, and not to be confounded for a moment with 
any other. Better curlers than those of Wanlockhead can 
nowhere be found, and one of their old veterans was quite 
justified when, on learning that those of a neighbouring 
parish, which had been carrying all before them, despaired of 
finding their equals on this lower sphere, and had threatened 
to challenge the moon, he drily remarked " Tell them to ca' 
at Wanlockhead on the road up." It is probable that they 
would have been saved the farther journey. 

There was a group of great curlers, now " a' wede awa'/' 
who in their day were the mainstay of the Sanquhar club, 
and whose names are still frequently mentioned for their 
prowess on the ice. Each excelled in his own particular way. 
Bailie Hair was peerless for beautiful drawing on keen ice ; 
Blackley, father and son, were distinguished for their dashing 
spirited play; George Finglarid shewed a very graceful style; 
while for skilful and crafty management of his game, Murdoch 
rarely met his match. Games in these days were contested 
in a spirit of fierce determination, more after the manner of 
a deadly feud than of a friendly rivalry. The honour of the 
parish was warmly cherished, and the result of the day's 
struggle was awaited with interest and concern. by the whole 
body of the townspeople. It was the custom of the late Mr 
John Halliday to offer a shilling to the first who should bring 
from the loch intelligence of the result. On a certain 
occasion the Sanquhar curlers had sustained a crushing 
defeat, and the fatal news was transmitted by telegraph. 
So indignant were the populace that they were received on 
their arrival with a perfect storm of groans and hisses, and 
next morning each skip found that the number of shots he 
had got, in most cases a disgracefully small number, had 
overnight been chalked in huge characters on his doorpost ; 
while the number of shots by which the spiel had been lost 
was conspicuous on the front door of the Town Hall. 

328 History nf Fanquhar. 

Many good curling stories are still told, some of them, 
however, too rough to bear recording. One, however, of a 
descriptive character may be given. It was told to the 
author with great pride by the hero of the tale, the late Mi- 
George Fingland, and had best be given in his own words. 
Referring to the first great and disastrous game with New 
Cumnock, above alluded to, "I was," said George, "in ane 
of the three rinks that wasna beat. I played seventh stane 
to auld Black. We stood 20 20, and New Cumnock lay 
shot afore the tee, but no very close, only it was guarded. It 
was my turn to play, and Black, after looking a' roun' the 
tee, put doon his besom on a spot exactly opposite the tee, 
and cried % ' George, d'ye see my besom V ' Yes,' I 
answered. 'Then,' said Black, 'if ye lie juist there, ye'll be 
shot.' Noo it was water frae tee tae tee, and gey deep at the 
ends. I had an eight-and-thirty pun' stane, a hidden grey, 
and gey dour. Craigdarroch was playing wi' us, and he had a 
big birk besom. Juist when I Avas gaun to play he said 'Wait 
a wee, George, and I'll break the water for ye.' He started 
frae the hog, and cam' doon the middle o' the rink, dashing 
the water tae richt and left, and I stood ready. When he 
cam' near he cried 'Noo, George,' and in a moment I threw 
the staue ahint me, got a gran' delivery, and sent it away a' 
my micht. It gaed scouring up through the water, and 
landed exactly opposite the tee, aichteen inches gleyt shot 
and game, for no' ane o' them could pit it oot." 



AGRICULTURE had, up to the commencement of 
the reign of Geo. III. in 17GO, made little or no 
progress in Scotland. The cultivators of the soil 
were content to pursue the rude methods of hus- 
u ban dry that had been in vogue for centuries, but 

the pioneers of an improved system were now beginning to 
appear. Wight, an intelligent farmer at Ormiston, was 
engaged by the Commissioners for managing the annexed 
estates, the extensive estates, that is, which were forfeited 
to the Crown through the treason of their owners in connec- 
tion with the rising of '45, to enquire into the agricultural 
condition of North Britain and report. His exhaustive 
report was published in six octavo volumes, and in his preface 
he remarks " While the bulk of our farmers are creeping in 
the beaten path of miserable husbandry, without knowing 
better, or even wishing to know better, several men of genius, 
shaking off the fetters of custom, have traced out new paths 
for themselves, and have been successful, even beyond 
expectation ; but their success has hitherto produced but few 
imitators ; so far from it, that among their slovenly neigh- 
bours the improvers are reckoned giddy-headed projectors." 
This is precisely the attitude taken up even yet by the great 
bulk of farmers towards every improvement or innovation on 
the part of the more intelligent and enterprising of their class. 
We can recall, for example, the deeply-rooted prejudice that 
prevailed at first against the use of artificial and chemical 


330 History of Sanquhar. 

manures, when these were used for the production of root 
crops, which now play so important a part in the agriculture 
of this district, enabling the tenants of arable farms to keep 
an increased stock of cattle, and bring their surplus stock 
into a condition fit for the market, while they serve, by pro- 
viding food for hill-stocks in an emergency of storm during 
winter, to prevent the recurrence of those disastrous losses 
which in former times were frequently suffered on purely 
pastoral farms. The introduction, too, of the reaping and 
mowing machines was laughed at as a method of reaping 
crops which might do on smooth level holm land, but which 
would be found utterly impracticable in such a district as 
Upper Nithsdale, where the bulk of the land is so uneven on 
the top ; and yet, in spite of the obstinacy of ignorance, on a 
good harvest day the merry ring of the reaper can be heard 
in all directions. Necessity, it is true, helped to overcome 
the stubbornness of farmers a necessity due to the depopu- 
lation of the rural districts, which is accounted for towards 
the close of Chapter VIII. 

The publication of eight volumes of Agricultural Reports 
by these Commissioners did infinite service to a country that 
was throwing off its indolence, and shewing some activity. 
The good work was helped by the establishment in 1784 of 
" The Highland Society," now the " Highland and Agricul- 
tural Society of Scotland," by which country gentlemen -had 
their attention first turned to the improvement of their own 
estates ; and by its keen interest in all that pertains to 
agriculture and the improvement of stock, has done, and is 
doing, an incalculable benefit to not merely the farming class, 
but to the whole country. Parliament, too, vigorously con- 
curred, by the making of roads in almost every county. 
From a Parliamentary report of 1821 we learn, that there had 
been constructed 1200 miles of roads and 1200 bridges, the 
large sum of 500,000 having been spent on these works. 

Further, banking, which had been a monopoly in the hands 
of the Bank of Scotland, was now extended by the establish- 

History of Sanquhar. 331 

merit, in 1727, of the Royal Bank, and iu 1747 of the British 
Linen Company, originally intended as a manufacturing 
concern, as its name imports; but, the manufacturing business 
proving unprofitable, it was changed into a banking company. 
The first country bank, the Aberdeen Bank, appeared in 
1749, and was followed by one at Ayr iu 1763, and another 
at Dumfries in 1767 ; but the benefits of these institutions 
were long delayed, through the refusal of the people to 
receive the notes of the banks. However, this distrust wa.s 
in time overcome, and the people gradually awoke to see to 
what advantage the system of banking could be turned. The 
total circulation in Scotland, which in 1707 amounted to 
920,000 in all, had increased in 1819 to 3,400,000. 

In the first half of the eighteenth century, the Duke of 
Queensberry was active in the improvement of both Niths- 
dale and Annandale. Wight, in his report, says " The 
good this nobleman has done would fill a volume to relate. 
At his own expense he opened a communication from Thorn- 
hill to Ayrshire, by a great road two and twenty miles long, 
through a hilly country by Sanquhar, where coal and lime 
abound. With coal Dumfries town was formerly supplied 
from England, and the country with lime. Now all is got 
much cheaper from Sanquhar ; encouraging leases are given 
to the tenants on the Buccleuch estates ; lime is afforded 
them gratis, as also sometimes grass seeds, and premiums for 
turnips." This illustrious improver, as Chalmers designates 
him, Duke Charles, died in 1778, at the age of eighty. In 
addition to the main road referred to, which cost the Duke 
1500, he also constructed a road to Whitecleuch lime works 
at a cost of 300, and the road to Wanlockhead at a cost of 
600. The lime referred to as abounding at Sanquhar was 
on Auchengruith farm, where traces of the old works are 
still visible. 

The valley of the Nith in the upper part being rather 
narrow, there is no great amount of holm land, hence we find 
that attempts were made to extend the area of cultivation. 

332 History of Sanquhar. 

The traces of the plough can, therefore, be discerned at the 
very base of the mountains on each hand, and in some 
instances well up their sloping sides. There were two 
reasons to account for this First, that the crops grown along 
the bank of the river, at a time when the draining of land had 
not commenced, were very subject to mildew from the damp 
fogs which lay along the lower lands; and, again, these were 
the days of Protection, when the country had to rely on its 
own resources for food supplies. The consequence was that 
after a bad harvest there was great scarcity, and bread-stuffs 
reached almost to famine prices. As a result, therefore, of 
the adoption of. a free trade policy, and the consequent 
reduction of prices, it was found that the crops grown on 
these uplands, even when they were not in late seasons 
rendered unfit for human food, could no longer be grown 
profitably, and the lands naturally reverted to the purpose of 
pasturage, for which nature manifestly designed them. 

Besides, the raising of straw for fodder was a greater 
necessity in those days, when there were no green crops. It 
was not till the beginning of the present century that turnips 
were grown in this locality. The system was first introduced 
from the lower parts of the county. Farmers were in a 
difficulty to obtain the necessary manure. Even then the 
value of bones, which form the basis of many of the best 
kinds of artificial manures, was understood, and every place 
where they had been accustomed to bury dead animals, such 
as horses and cows, was ransacked to obtain the bones, 
which were chopped up in the rudest fashion with axes and 

William, the last of the Drumlanrig Douglases, knowing 
that, through the failure of the male line of his family, the 
dukedom would at his death pass to Henry, the third Duke 
of Buccleuch, the heir in right of his grandmother, towards 
whom he bore no good-will, resolved to do what he could 
to diminish the value of the estates to his successor. They 
being strictly entailed, he was not at liberty under the law to 

History of Sanquhar. 333 

mortgage or burden them in the ordinary way, but he hit on 
what he probably considered an ingenious expedient to 
accomplish his end. The farms were let on leases of a 
definite duration at a yearly rent, representing their annual 
value, which rent was the whole obligation of the tenant to 
his landlord, the usual system prevailing at the present day. 
For this he substituted another, according to which the 
farmer paid a slump sum down as entry money, which, of 
course, went into the Duke's pocket, whereupon he was granted 
a nineteen years' lease at a very nominal rent, and on each 
year's rent being paid, the nineteen years' lease was renewed 
as at that date, so as to secure that, die when he might, his 
successor should be made to suffer so far as he could make 
him. The farms were put up for sale at Edinburgh, and the 
transactions, though manifestly a barefaced evasion of the 
law, were carried through. An enormous sum was thus 
realised. On his death, in 1810, he was succeeded, as has 
been said, by Henry, the third Duke of Buccleuch, who was 
then a minor, but the management of his Queensberry estates 
was placed in the hands of a capable chamberlain, the well- 
known Major Crichton, who continued in office from 1811 to 
1843. The legality of the transactions above referred to was 
challenged, and it was soon ascertained that they were not 
in conformity with the law of Scotland, and steps were at 
once taken to put an end to the arrangements under which 
the various tenants held their farms. This was what was 
called among the people of the district " the breaking of the 
tacks," and marked a new era in the agriculture of Upper 

The area in cultivation for corn being so much greater then 
than it is now, the harvest was the great carnival of the year 
in country districts. The reaping was done by the hook, and 
on the larger farms there were bands of reapers of from ten 
to twenty in number, the produce in some cases amounting 
to five tons of meal. Turnips were at first thinned by the 
hand, and, when that operation was subsequently done with 

334 History of Sanquhar. 

the hoe by women, who came from the lower end of the 
county, it excited great interest among the country folks, 
whose first impression was, when they saw the young plants 
so roughly knocked about, that the crop would be ruined ; 
but experience soon taught them that, so far from that being 
the case, the crop throve quite as well afterwards, as if it 
had been thinned by the hand, and the new system was 
rapidly adopted as more expeditious than the old. This was 
during the second decade of the present century. Plots of 
lint were cultivated on most farms. It was ripe before the 
corn, and was pulled by the hand. When the crop was late 
the fibre was coarse, and it was described as " mair tow than 
lint." It was tied in sheaves with bands of " spret," and put 
up in stooks in the field, whence, after it had stood for a few 
days, it was taken and plunged into a stagnant pool, being 
overlaid with boards and weights to keep it under water. 
This was called the process of " souring." Having lain for 
ten days or a fortnight, according to the temperature of the 
atmosphere, it was taken out and spread in thin rows on dry 
ground. It was then gathered into big bundles, and sent to 
the lint mill. These lint mills were scattered over the 
country, at wide intervals. There was not one in Upper 
Nithsdale, and the bulk of the lint was sent to Dunscore. 
The process at the lint mill was the separation of the tow 
from the lint, and the people employed at these mills were 
called " hecklers." The tow and lint were sent home in 
separate bundles. The lint was spun on the wee wheel, 
which was driven with the foot. This, with the spinning of 
woollen yarn on the big wheel, was the principal employment 
of the women in the winter evenings. The finer qualities 
were woven into linen for napery, and the commoner sorts 
into shirting, by linen weavers who worked hand-looms in 
their own homes. The good housewives took a great pride 
in the quantity and quality of their napery, and also in their 
stock of blankets in having, in short, what was called a 
bien house. 

History of Sanquhar. 335 

About the end of the last and the beginning of the pre- 
sent century it was that the draining of the land commenced. 
These drains were not tile, but stone drains, for there were no 
tiles then. They were cut about three feet deep, and filled up 
to within 15 or 18 inches from the surface with stones, those 
gathered off the land during cultivation being used for this 
purpose. Stories were also quarried for the same end, and 
rough gravel carted from the river bed was likewise used. 
Drains of this kind if carefully done were found most 
efficient, and some, constructed 60 or 70 years ago, are quite 
good yet. Another description of drain was cut very narrow 
at the bottom with a ledge or shoulder on each side, on 
which the top turf or sod was placed with the green side 
down, thus forming a tunnel along which the water was 
carried off. These were called sod drains, and were the kind 
used in the lower lands under cultivation, but on the hills 
the drains were then as now open. Draining of the first- 
named kind was necessarily a slow and expensive operation, 
and, unless very carefully done, did not in many cases prove 
a success. For this reason no great progress was for a time 
made. The invention of the draining tile, however, and the 
opening of communication by railway, which effected an 
improvement in the general trade of the country, gave a fresh 
stimulus to farmers, and, from 1859 onwards, immense tracts 
have been rescued from a state of nature and brought into 

When the use of lime was conjoined with draining 
wonderful results were produced. The whole land was, in a 
sense, virgin soil, and when it had been relieved of its excess 
of moisture and warmed with a liberal dose of lime, the most 
abundant crops were produced, and, what was of import- 
ance in so high a locality, harvest was reached earlier than 
formerly. The system became almost universal, and the 
interval of the summer between seed-time and harvest was 
largely occupied in carting lime from Corsancone and Close- 
burn, the back road over Corsancone being still termed the 

336 History of Sanqultar. 

"Lime Road," though it was in a very different condition 
then, and many mishaps occurred with the lime carts when 
the wheels went into a hole. The system of liming was. 
however, attempted to be carried too far. On its application 
a second time on the same soil, after an interval of years, the 
results were disappointing. 

In some respects they were worse than disappointing ; 
they were disastrous. In 1835 and following years, land, 
which had been limed and cropped year after year in succes- 
sion, became so loose that it was picked up with the grass 
and eaten by the sheep, the consequence being rot on a large 
scale, the third, and, in some instances, the half of an entire 
stock perishing. The great bulk of the land is pastoral, and 
many of the farms are large, the rents of several ranging 
from 500 to 1000, that of Clenries (the ancient Cog) even 
exceeding the latter sum. 

A sudden and rapid rise in the price of agricultural produce 
took place about forty years ago. It began in 1852 with 
cheese. In that year, cheese, the normal price of which was 
7s per stone of 24 pounds, went up to 14s and 1 5s, and was 
re-sold by dealers in some instances at no less than a guinea 
per stone, or 10|d per Ib. wholesale. This extraordinary rise 
was attributable to the large exports to Australia in connec- 
tion with the newly-discovered gold fields, and to the activity 
of the iron and coal industries, following on the opening up 
of the country by the railways, which were being rapidly 
extended. It next came the turn of the stock farmers. In 
1863, in consequence of the American Civil War, and the 
resulting scarcity of cotton, wool was greatly enhanced in 
value, and prices went up with a bound. In 1864, Cheviot 
washed brought 2s Id to 2s 2d per Ib.; blackfaced, unwashed, 
Is 2d per Ib. A corresponding upward movement took place 
later in the price of sheep, for which there sprang up an 
enormous demand, owing to the ravages of the cattle plague, 
by which sheep were not affected. Hill lambs, which had in 
preceding years averaged, for blackfaced 10s, and for Cheviots 

History of Sanquhar. 337 

13s 6d, were bought freely at the Sanquhar July market of 
1872 at 15 to 17 10s, and from 21 to 23 respectively 
per score ; while wool, which had in the interval fallen to 
about one-half, again returned to the high level of 1864. 
The year 1872, therefore, marked the flood tide of the pros- 
perity of stock farmers. These prosperous times continued 
for several years, but were followed by a period of deep 
depression, aggravated by severe winters, from which agricul- 
turists are, however, again recovering, the winters being open, 
and prices, although subject to considerable fluctuations, 
continuing fairly good. 

Such an era of astounding prosperity stimulated the energy 
and enterprise of what was a naturally shrewd and intelligent 
body of farmers, and furnished them with abundance of 
capital. Some, no doubt, were content to hoard up their 
rapidly amassed wealth, but, generally speaking, a great 
advance was noticeable in the treatment of the land and the 
methods of husbandry ; while increasing attention was given 
to the improvement of the breed of cattle, sheep, and horses. 
On the farms not entirely pastoral, dairy farming is very 
generally practised, together with the raising of cattle. 
Originally we find that the cattle in Nithsdale were Gallo- 
ways, but in process of time the Ayrshire breed acquired a 
great reputation for milk-producing qualities, and, Sanquhar 
lying within easy reach of Ayrshire, the Galloways were soon 
displaced by their more picturesque rivals. Greater attention, 
as has been said, was given to cattle breeding, and now several 
of the Duke of Buccleuch's tenants in Upper Nithsdale stand 
in the very front rank as breeders both of cattle and sheep. 
A remarkable improvement is likewise observable in the 
quality of the horses used for agriculture. These are of the 
Clydesdale breed, which of late years has attained a great 
popularity both at home and abroad. Farmers, who are 
frequently accused of being lacking in the power of co- 
operation, have at all events combined to some purpose in 
this direction, by the establishment of an Ayrshire Herd 


338 History of Sanquhar. 

Book and a Clydesdale Stud Book, and by the promotion of 
agricultural shows, in which the Highland and Agricultural 
Society worthily takes the lead. The effect of these measures 
has been, that the cattle of all kinds to be seen on our farms 
are of an altogether different stamp to what they were in 
former days. A most profitable trade has been done of late 
years with bikers from foreign countries and the British 
Colonies in both cattle and horses. These buyers, bent on 
the improvement of the native breeds or the introduction of 
a totally new breed, do not hesitate to give long prices for 
animals of an approved stamp and of good pedigree, so that 
not only are almost fabulous prices obtained for individual 
animals but rates all round have been raised and kept at a 
higher standard. 

In the outburst of energy and enterprise which followed 
on the great tide of prosperity above mentioned, the tenants 
on the Queensberry estates were encouraged and aided by 
their landlord the late "good Duke," who died on April 16, 
1884, to the great grief of the whole people on his vast estates. 
He was worthily represented at this time by his chamberlain 
the late J. Gilchrist-Clark, Esq. of Speddoch, under whose 
administration most extensive improvements were made upon 
the estate. Liberal encouragement was given in the drain- 
ing of the land, and the farm steadings were improved and 
equipped in such a complete manner as to excite the envy 
of farmers from all quarters ; so that at that time, both in 
respect of the reasonable rents, the splendid accommodation 
for both man and beast, and the liberal encouragement given 
in every possible way, the Duke's tenants came to be regarded 
as the very aristocracy of Scottish farmers. 

As an example of the high quality of the cattle of all kinds 
on the farms of some of the more enterprising tenants, it may 
be stated, that, at the displenishing sale of one of this stamp 
held recently, the sum realised amounted to no less than 
ten years' rent of the holding. 

History of Sauquhar. 339 


Sauquhar is one of the two places in Dumfriesshire 
where coal is to be found, the other being Canonbie, near 
Langholm. The Sanquhar field appears from the map of the 
geological survey to be in all probability a continuation of 
the greater Ayrshire field, and reaches from Hall in the west 
of Kirk con net parish to a point on the farm of Ryehill, a 
little east of Sanquhar, where it finally crops out. The total 
area of the Sanquhar coal-field is nearly 30 square miles. It 
cannot be definitely fixed when the working of the coal at 
Sanquhar first began, but it certainly has been conducted for 
a very lengthened period of time. Reference will be found 
in the chapter on the Crichton family in connection with 
Sanquhar Castle to the fact that the lime in the walls bears 
indubitable proof that coal had been worked in the parish at 
the time of its building. That carries us back for a period of 
seven hundred years. Additional proof is forthcoming in the 
writings of Sir Walter Scott, no mean authority on all such 
matters of history, for in " Guy Mannering," the story of 
which is laid in the eighteenth century, Dandie Dinmont, 
observing the repugnance of Bertram to commit himself to 
Mrs M'Guffog's sheets, agreed that he had good reason, for 
"'Od," said he, "this bed looks as if a' the colliers in 
Sanquhar had been in't thegither." 

The surface of the ground in the district being of an 
undulating character, and upthrows and downthrows being 
an unfortunate characteristic of the field, the coal reveals its 
presence in many quarters. It is frequently to be found not 
far from the surface, and consequently runs out on the face 
of a cliff or brae. The first attempts at mining were naturally 
of the simplest and most primitive kind, consisting of a drift 
or level carried in where the coal thus shewed itself. By this 
opening, the miners obtained access to the coal, and through 
it the mineral was drawn out and the water drained off. 
lu truth, it was the only opening into the workings. Exam- 

340 History of Sanquhar. 

pies of this method of mining, as it was formerly practised, 
are to be seen in various directions. A. level of this descrip- 
tion, called among miners here an " ingaun-e'e," is to be seen 
at Brandleys, the coals there being probably sought after for 
the burning of the lime on Auchengruith, to which reference 
is made by Chalmers, in " Caledonia," as having been at that 
time the principal source of supply of lime for Upper Niths- 
dale. It is likewise a tradition that, when the burning of 
lime first began at Corsancone, the kilns were supplied with 
coal obtained by the same method of working at Lagrae 
Burn, two miles west of Kirkconnel. 

A level has also been driven in from below the old 
Sanquhar Castle, and further west, at the upper end 
of the Braeheads, close to the site of the old bridge, for 
reaching the coal in the ground between the town and the 
river. In process of time, and through the greater demand 
for, and consequently increased value of coal, more systematic 
means were adopted for working it. The proprietors on the 
north-east side of the town, concluding that the same seam 
that had been found on the south side extended under their 
properties, commenced to exploit, and the ground lying 
between the town and the common-land is dotted all over with 
the traces of disused shafts, each with its heap of debris greater 
or less. But the visions of wealth which rose in the minds of the 
many small proprietors who owned this land were doomed to 
disappointment. The vagaries of the coal here are of a most 
tantalising character. No sooner was the seam reached, and 
operations begun with the fairest of prospects, than a hitch 
occurred, and the coal was lost, or else water was encountered, 
and the workings were speedily flooded. In most cases, these 
pits were owned by persons who had no practical knowledge 
of mining; in truth, mining engineering was then in its 
infancy, and they were utterly helpless in the presence of such 
difficulties. Nor, though they had been gifted with the requi- 
site knowledge, did they possess the necessary capital. Besides, 
it is clear from what is now known of the character of the 

History of Sanquhar. 34 1 

seam in this locality that a large outlay of capital would not 
have been justified. The seam at its best was a poor one, 
not being over three feet in thickness, and full of steps or 
hitches. The dreams of wealth which filled the brains of 
proprietors and exploiters alike proved nothing but dreams, 
and the result was that these numerous attempts did more 
to empty than to fill their pockets. 

The connection of the Town Council with coal mining will 
be found described in the municipal chapter. As will be seen 
therein, a lease of the coal in that portion of the Common 
lying contiguous to Crawick was granted by the Town 
Council to Mr M'Nab of The Holm, and a considerable 
revenue was derived from this source for a few years, but the 
workable coal was speedily exhausted, and further operations 
proving unremunerative, owing to the causes mentioned, 
they were ultimately abandoned. Of the coal worked by 
M'Nab, it is said, in the " Statistical Account," that " in the 
seam under the bed of the river, and to some distance on 
each side, there were thousands of bodies resembling fishes 
of different kinds, and varying in size, having heads, tails, 
fins, and scales, lying in all different ways." These, of course j 
are specimens of the fossilized remains of animals so fre- 
quently found in the coal measures. " Impressions of shells, 
and of several vegetable substances, are met with, both in the 
coals and in the metals lying above it." 

Professor Jameson, at page 89 of his " Mineralogy of 
Dumfriesshire," says " that a little above Crawick Bridge 
there are examples of columnar glance coal, which in some 
places is seen passing into graphite or black lead." 

Better results had been meanwhile obtained, however, in 
the neighbouring parish of Kirkconnel, further west, and 
nearer to Ayrshire. The Duke of Buccleuch granted a lease 
of the minerals in his lands to the late Mr Barker, White- 
hill, by whom operations were carried on in various quarters. 
He sunk shafts on the lands of Heuksland, which His Grace 
acquired at the division of the town lands in 1830. and on 

History of Sanqukar. 

Lawers Braes, above Crawick Mill, the lease of which the 
Duke acquired at M'Nab's death. He worked also at 
Quarry lands, above Whitehill, at the Libry Moor, and at 
Damhead, on Knockenjig. At the last-named place, where 
a pit was sunk, he put on pumps to draw the water from the 
workings. These pumps were worked by a water-wheel, 
which in turn was driven by water from the river Nith. 
The adage that water like fire is a good servant, but a bad 
master, received abundant illustration here, for, in time of 
flood, the dam-head, raised to divert the water into the 
required course, was carried away three times. As often 
as this occurred, as often was the damage made good ; but 
the danger which was to prove fatal to the whole under- 
taking lurked in another and quite a different quarter. One 
day an old miner, by name James Lachlison, when engaged 
at work, struck the fatal stroke, the result of which was that 
an immense flood of water poured into the workings, and ulti- 
mately filled the shaft up to the very mouth. This put an 
effectual stop to all proceedings ; the river was left to work its 
sweet will on the damhead, which it in course of time swept 
away, and the wide open drain, by which the water, after 
passing over the wheel, was restored to the river, became the 
course by which the water overflowing from the pit mouth found 
its way to the same destination. A singular occurrence took 
place many years afterwards when the Misses Whigham, 
who had then become the Duke's mineral tenants, were 
sinking the first shaft at Gateside. An old man, David 
Muir, who resided at Damhead, reported to the manager one 
morning that his well, which was supplied by this water, 
was going dry. The manager was alarmed, the gravest fears 
being entertained that at Gateside they had tapped this same 
underground water-course, and that similarly disastrous 
results might ensue as had already been experienced at 
Damhead. Capital, however, was available, and engineering- 
resources were greater then than in the olden time. Larger 
pumps were substituted, and greater steam-power provided, 

History of Sanquhar. 343 

the result being that the water was effectually kept in check. 
The manager's conjecture proved correct, for from that time 
the workings at Damhead were gradually drained dry, and 
have so remained ever since. 

Prior to the sinking of the first Gateside pit, the coal had 
been worked at Drumbuie, on the opposite side of the river, 
for 20 or 30 years, by a day level. So accessible was the 
coal here, that the cutting of this drift by which it was 
reached cost only the trifling sum of 5. The seam was only 
twelve feet below the surface, and the level relieved the 
whole workings of water. On Drumbuie Holm, lying nearer 
the river, a pit was subsequently sunk, and an engine 
provided, in order to catch the same seam which here was 
thrown down by a step. Several pits had likewise been sunk 
on the same side of the river at Burnfoot, and these were 
worked by a Mining Company from Wanlockhead. 

The sinking of the first pit on Gateside, already referred 
to, took place in 1848, after careful borings had been made. 
The coal is of a good household type, and consists of one 
seam of three feet in thickness, lying twenty fathoms from the 
surface, and another of three feet seven inches, six fathoms 
lower. The natural dip of the coal in the Sanquhar field is 
towards the north-east. When this pit was sunk, the Glasgow 
and South-Western Railway was in process of construction. 
The railway was opened in 1850. This marked a new era in 
the coal trade, by the facilities of transit which were thus 
provided. Before this period a large trade was done in the 
surrounding district, particularly towards the south, carts 
having actually come from Lochmaben, Dumfries, and 
even further down the country. At the pits the coal 
was sold at 5s per ton, and to meet the demand, C. G. 
Stuart-Menteath, Esq. of Closeburn, kept at Sanquhar 
a depot for coal, which he brought in considerable 
quantity in waggons from his estate of Mansfield, 
in the parish of New Cumnock, a distance of about eleven 
miles. The average quantity sold annually at Sanquhar at 

344 History of Sanquhar. 

that time (1841) was about 16,000 tons. This coal traffic 
was continuous throughout the year, unless at those excep- 
tional times during the winter when the roads were blocked 
with snow, and, as can readily be understood, contributed 
not a little to the trade of the town of Sanquhar. The long 
distances from which many of these carts came caused an 
over-night rest to be taken, the practice being to leave their 
homes early in the morning, load at the pit, and draw the 
coals to Sanquhar, where alone accommodation could be 
obtained, and there remain till next morning, when the 
homeward journey was resumed. This trade, though consider- 
able throughout the year, was largely increased at a certain 
period of the summer. In the interval between the planting 
of potatoes and the hay-harvest, or between the hay and 
grain harvests, when there was a lull in out-door farm work, 
the opportunity was taken by farmers to make repeated 
journeys to the " coal-heugh," and lay in a stock of fuel 
sufficient to carry them through the winter. Further, the 
volume of trade was increased still more at this season by 
the carting of smithy coals. It was an old-established 
custom for country blacksmiths to lay in a whole year's 
supply of coals at this season, and each farmer was expected 
to assist in carting the supply of coals for the smithy where 
he got his work done. In those days the country blacksmith's 
trade was greater than it is now : the area of cultivation was 
wider on many farms, more horses had to be kept, arid this 
increased the work of the blacksmith. The quantity of coals, 
therefore, consumed in some of these country smithies was 
very considerable, amounting in some instances to forty carts 
a year. The occasion, when this addition was made to the 
daily traffic of the coal -carts, made quite a stir in the old 
town, which was almost taken possession of. The carts were 
drawn up in line on each side of the street, and have been 
known to stretch in a double line from the Town Hall to the 
Corseburn, which would have formed a single line nearly 
half-a-mile in length. In another chapter attention is 

History of Sanquhar. 345 

directed to the predatory habits in early times of the tribes 
who inhabited this border county habits which were not 
readily reformed, but were transmitted to their descendants. 
The presence of this long array of coal-carts at their very 
doors offered the opportunity of convenient plunder which 
was too tempting to be resisted. The journey made by these 
coal-carts being in many cases a long one, the loads were 
made as large as the capacity of the cart would admit of, and 
so it was the practice, when the box of the cart was full, to 
put what are called " setters," consisting of large lumps of 
coal laid round the edge of the cart, which kept the smaller 
coals piled up on the top from rolling off. The same method 
is employed in loading railway waggons, and is called " trim- 
ming." It was upon the setters, then, that the covetous eyes 
of these midnight prowlers were cast, and frequently the 
carts were stripped in a disgraceful manner. 

The pit at Gateside was at a little distance on the upper 
side of the railway, and the coals for transit by rail were 
run down an incline to the waggons, the loaded hutches 
drawing the empty ones back. Some years afterwards a 
new shaft was sunk, a few hundred yards east, and quite 
close to the railway, the coal being now loaded from the pit 
bank direct into the waggons. The site of this shaft being 
in a hollow near Gateside Cleuch, the two seams of coal were 
found each six fathoms nearer the surface. This pit is still 
in operation, and affords a good supply of household coal. 

Of late years, however, the Gateside seam has shewn signs 
of being worked out, and boring operations were com- 
menced by Mr M'Connel, the present lessee, between the 
Bankhead and Gateside pits. The result was highly success- 
ful, and proved the presence of a seam of house coal at a 
little over twenty fathoms, and another of fine splint. 
Successive bores were put down to prove the extent of the 
field, and these seams were found to stretch all over the low 
lands along the north bank of the river. It was thereupon 
resolved to sink a new shaft at Gateside, close to the railway, 


346 History of SanquJtar. 

and only a little distance east of the present pit, fitted with 
the best and most modern engineering plant. The first sod 
was cut in March last, and sinking has gone on day and night 
since that time, the expectation being that the work will 
finish in October. The first seam is twenty-six fathoms 
down, and consists of three feet of house coal of a better 
quality than any ever previously worked in the Sanquhar 
district ; and at fifty-eight fathoms, there lies the splendid 
five feet seam of splint coal of the same excellent quality as 
Bankhead. A powerful winding-engine, of the horizontal 
coupled pattern, has been erected, and also a compound 
horizontal tandem-geared pumping engine, capable of raising 
over one and a half million gallons of water every twenty- 
four hours. 

In the pit already mentioned as having been put down at 
Drambuie holm, the coal was found at eleven fathoms, and 
for years proved productive, but the supply became exhausted. 
The old river-course referred to in the geological survey 
was encountered, and the coal there appeared to have 
been washed away. Boring was then commenced on the 
opposite side of the river Nith on the farm of Bankhead, 
in the hope of recovering touch with the same seam. The 
search was successful ; the coal was reached at 33 fathoms, 
and a shaft was immediately sunk close to the railway. This 
was in the year 1857. The seam is four feet six inches 
thick, and is exceptionally fine splint. Its value as a steam- 
coal, for which the demand was year by year rapidly increas- 
ing, owing to the extended use of steam in various forms of 
industry as well as in the continually enlarging railway 
system of the country, was early recognised, and a good trade 
sprang up from various quarters. 

A great impetus was given to the trade of this colliery in 
1872 co-incident with the improvement of the railway service 
between England and Scotland, when quick trains were put 
on the road. Locomotives of an improved description were 
constructed, designed to do the journey between London and 

History of Sanquhar. 34-7 

Scotland in a much shorter period of time than hitherto, and 
farther, the system of express trains was being more and more 
introduced on all railways ; the quality of the coal for the 
locomotives became, in consequence, a matter of greater 
moment than ever. The Bank head coal stood the severest 
tests, and established itself as second to none in Scotland for 
raising steam, and was found exceptionally free from "clinker- 
ing " on the furnace bars, which, when it occurred, was the 
occasion of both trouble and delay. All the fast trains on 
the Glasgow & South- Western Railway are now coaled from 
Bankhead ; in fact, that company consumes the greater part 
of the whole output. 

Recently the Bankhead coal has been sold for the purpose 
of gas making. Fi-om the first it had been used by the 
Sanquhar Gas Company, but only for fuel. In course of 
time, the Company tried it in the retorts, in the hope of 
improving the quality of coke. The result was eminently 
satisfactory, for the whole body of the coke was converted 
into excellent fuel. It was observed at the same time that 
neither the quantity nor the quality of the gas produced was 
affected to any appreciable degree, and the possibility of a 
considerable saving in cost thus came into view. Experi- 
ments were made with the Bankhead coal alone, and the 
results exceeded all anticipation. They shewed that this was 
a coal containing a fair quantity of gas of good illuminating 
power, and exceptionally useful, by reason of the very fine 
coke left after the gas had been extracted. A report was 
made to the proprietor, who was recommended to have the 
coal tested by an expert. This was done, and the analysis 
shewed, as was to be expected, an even higher quantity of 
gas per ton than that obtained in a small work like Sanquhar. 
Steps were thereupon taken to place the coal on the market, 
and already a considerable and steadily increasing trade is 
being done with gas companies. 

Since the early part of the century, a pit has likewise been 
worked on the farm of Nethercairn, on the south side of the 

348 History of Sanqukar. 

river, and two miles west of Kirkconnel. Both household 
and smithy coal are obtained here, but the working of the 
former has for many years been abandoned, the distance from 
the railway, and the thin population of the district rendering 
sales difficult, and particularly after the opening of the other 
pits in more accessible positions. The smithy coal, which 
cannot be obtained elsewhere in the neighbourhood, is still 
worked, but that only at certain seasons, when a few men 
can put out in a short time as much as will meet the whole 
year's demand. 

The following description of the Sanquhar coal field is 
taken from the Memoirs of the Geological Survey : 

"The district lies wholly within the Silurian uplands. In tracing their 
outlines we soon learn that the Carboniferous rocks have been deposited in 
ancient hollows or valleys, which, worn out of the Silurian rocks in paleo- 
zoic times, were afterwards filled up with Carboniferous and Permian 
deposits, and in long-subsequent ages were re-excavated, so as now to pre- 
sent the form of valleys and hollows once more. In the course of this pro- 
tracted denudation so much of the original Carboniferous and Permian 
covering has been removed that only fragments of it are now left ; while 
the Silurian floor, on which it was laid down, has been everywhere, and 
often deeply eroded. Enough, however, remains to show us that what is 
now the valley of the Nith was also a valley in Carboniferous times, and 
that somewhere about the site of Kirkconnel lay the head of this valley in 
the form of a col, from which the ground descended northward, with pro- 
bably an abrupt slope, into Ayrshire. In proof of this statement, we find 
that, in ascending the Nith valley, the Carboniferous Limestone series, 
which is so well developed in the Thornhill basin, thins out towards the 
north, until, along the south-eastern borders of the Sanquhar coal-field, 
it disappears altogether, and the overlying Coal- Measures come to rest 
directly on the Lower Silurian rocks. No Carboniferous Limestone beds 
reappear until we reach the great fault, immediately on the north side of 
which they come in in force. It is difficult to understand how this should 
have happened, unless on the supposition that, at the time when the 
Carboniferous Limestone series was in the act of deposition, the line of 
fault was represented at the surface by a steep bank shelving to the north, 
which formed the limit of the Limestone series on that side, but which, as 
the whole regions continued to sink, was gradually buried under the 
continuous sheet of Coal-Measures which stretched through the San- 
quhar valley northwards into Ayrshire. 

Of the remaining fragments of the Carboniferous deposits once laid down 
within the Silurian area, the largest and most important forms the 

History of Sanquhar. 


Sanquhar coal field. As shown on the map, this area covers a part of the 
Nith valley, about nine miles long, and from two and a half to four miles 
broad, with the river flowing down its centre. On the left bank of the 
Nith the boundary of the coal field is formed by a long and powerful fault, 
while on the other hand the edge of the field is defined by the line of the 
out-crop of the lowest bed of the Coal Measures upon the Silurian 
rocks. At the south-eastern end of the field several small outlying patches 
of the Carboniferous Limestone series occur. They consist, at the base, 
of fine conglomerate, covered by sandstones, shales, and thin con- 
cretionary fossiliferous limestones. A f Brandleys a portion of the same 
rocks is seen passing underneath the Coal Measures, whence it may be 
inferred that only the upper part of the Carboniferous Limestone series is 
here represented. 

The Sanquhar coal field is entirely made up of strata belonging to the 
true Coal Measures. Although it has not yet been possible to identify 
many of the coal seams of this field with those in the neighbouring district 
of New Cumnock, yet, from the general resemblance of the other strata in 
the two coal-fields, there can be little doubt that they have at one time 
been connected, and therefore that the Sanquhar coal-field is only a pro- 
longation of the Ayrshire Coal Measures. 







Creepie Coal 





Calmstone Coal ... 



Strata ... 


Twenty-inch Coal 




. 40 

* Daugh Coal 




. 50-60 

Splint Coal 



. 16 

Coal -v 








Strata | Swallow-Cra lg Coals 6 




Strata J 


Position of (Slatey) Black-band 


*[NoTE. With reference to the Daugh Coal mentioned in the above table, 
recent researches made by Mr Russell, manager of the works, have proved 
the supposed existence of this coal to be an error. This is to be explained 
by the fact that, in the eastern part of the field, the splint, and in the 
western part, the creepie, has been mistaken for this daugh seam. This 
makes the ninety fathom fault referred to on page 350 only half that 

350 History of Sanquhar. 

On the north-east side of the field lies a portion of the upper barren red- 
sandstones, which, here, as in Ayrshire, overlap the older portions of the 
Carboniferous system. The interval between their deposition and that of 
the highest part of the underlying coal-measures is further shown by the 
fact that at one place, near Bankhead, they actually spread over a fault in 
the coal-measures of ninety fathoms without being themselves disturbed* 
Yet, that these red sandstones are of Carboniferous, and not of later age, is 
indicated by the occurrence in them of at least two coal-seams (one of 
which is two feet thick), and one of black-band ironstone, which are seen 
in the stream near Kirkland. Overlying the red sandstones at the south- 
east end of the field are three small outliers of melaphyre, which, from 
their position and their petrographical character, must be placed on the 
same horizon with the Permian volcanic rocks of the Carron water, and 
with the corresponding Permian volcanic rocks of Ayrshire. They are 
mere fragments of lava flows ; and some of the points of eruption from 
which they were ejected are still visible in the necks of agglomerate which 
rise through the coal-field. 

Of the faults by which the Sanquhar coal-field is bounded and inter- 
sected, by far the largest is that which has let down the coal-field on the 
north-east side against the Silurian rocks. From the depth of coal- 
measures which it throws out at the north-east or deepest part of the field, 
it must be one of at least 1200 feet. Its most singular feature, perhaps, is 
the remarkable bend which it makes when, in proceeding to the north-west, 
it approaches within less than fifty yards of the great boundary fault. 
Instead of touching that dislocation, it turns off sharply to the left, and 
runs parallel with it for two miles, the space between the two faults being 
sometimes not more than twenty yards. The Hue of the fault is made 
conspicuous even at the surface from the fact of its having been taken by 
a massive dolerite dyke which extends along the fault for several miles 011 
both sides of the angle. About a mile and a half beyond the angle, on the 
north-west side, this dyke cuts across the narrow intervening strip of 
Silurian strata into the great boundary fault, along which it con- 
tinues to run until it is lost under the alluvium of the Nith. Parallel, 
in a general sense, with the faiilt which has just been described, a number 
of minor dislocations traverse the coal-field, with the effect of letting down 
the beds by a series of steps towards the north-east or deepest part of the 
field. Of these, the largest has been already referred to as having a throw 
of ninety fathoms. It runs in a N.N.W. direction, and, as shown by the 
workings in the Bankhead Colliery, brings down the Calmstone coal against 
the splint coal-seam. Yet, as before remarked, it does not penetrate the 
overlying red sandstones, the whole of the displaced rock on the up-throw 
side of the dislocation having been removed by denudation before these 
strata were deposited. 

One distinguishing feature in the Sanquhar coal-field is the fact that 
a'ong the south-west half of the field the strata are traversed in a north- 

History of Sanquhar. 351 

westerly direction by at least three narrow doleritic dykes, which send 
out intrusive sheets along the coal-seams. The trap itself is much 
decomposed, having the same character as the white-trap so common in 
the Ayrshire coal-fields. As in Ayrshire, the coals are so altered by it as 
to be unworkable. In some places they have been converted into beauti- 
fully columnar anthracite. 


Indications of former river-courses are sometimes found under the drift 
in the course of mining operations. Thus, in the valley of the Nith, to 
the west of Kirkconnel, a series of borings showed the existence of a deep 
trench worn out of the Carboniferous rocks, and filled up with boulder-clay. 
This trench was probably at one time the water-course of the Nith, which 
has since been forced to cut a gorge for itself out of the rocks, without 
regaining its old channel. In the coal-workings between Old Kelloside 
and Drambuie the splint coal was found to be cut out by boulder-clay at 
a depth of ten fathoms. But mines were driven through the obstruction, 
and the coal was regained on the other side of what seems to have been 
another portion of a river channel. A little to the east of Sanquhar a 
similar buried water-course was encountered in working the Daugh 
[probably Splint] coal, and in this instance sand was found to lie between 
the boulder-clay and the rocks below. 


It has not been found possible to ascertain with any degree 
of certainty when the weaving industry, which ultimately be- 
came for a lengthened period of time the principal employment 
in the town, first sprang up. In all likelihood, it gradually 
grew from small beginnings. As was the case in most country 
districts in Scotland, there had always been a deal of weaving 
work done, consisting of woollen cloth and blankets. The 
clothing of the people was of rough material, and was 
prepared in their own dwellings. Communication was 
difficult, and trade was entirely of a local character, each 
district being of necessity self-sustaining to a great extent, 
particularly in the article of clothing. There was, it is true, 
a tribe of pedlars or packmen, so called because they carried 

352 History of Sanquhar. 

about from house to house on their back their stock-in-trade, 
consisting of linen and the finer dress materials, which were 
manufactured in the larger towns or manufactories ; but 
money was scarce, and few of the working people (and they 
formed the great bulk of the population) could afford such 
luxuries. What linen they required was provided by the 
small plots of lint, which we refer to in the chapter on 
agriculture as having been grown on many farms at that 
time. Provision for the clothing of the family was made in 
every well-managed house, and all the wealth to which a 
thrifty couple could hope to attain consisted, not in money 
saved, but in a bien house. Situated in the heart of a 
pastoral country, there was no difficulty in obtaining the raw 
material wool, and small mills for performing those of the 
processes of manufacture which could not be accomplished by 
hand were numerous. The wool could be obtained either by 
weight or in skins or fleeces, most commonly the latter. If 
on skins, the wool was removed by the use of quick -lime, 
and the process of preparation for its manufacture began. 
The wool was first scoured, and urine, being in request as a 
valuable aid in this process, was carefully stored up. It was 
then spread out, either on the ground or on a hedge, on a 
sunny day to be dried. When dry, it was laid past in the 
loft or an outhouse, and the work of teazing that is, of 
separating the fibres with the fingers, leaving it a light, loose 
mass was engaged in in the winter evenings. The teazing 
was a tedious process, but all men, women, and children 
were pressed into the service, and often neighbours gave each 
other a helping hand. Even those who had been hard at 
work all day could join in, for it was a light job, and, indeed, 
no one cared to miss it, for many a merry party met to teaze 
the gude-wife's woo'. The winter's storm might rage without, 
but, with a good blazing fire of peats on the hearth, crack 
and joke went round, and the work went on right merrily. 

The parties that gathered at night round the fire when 
the wool was being teazed or spun, and the way in which 

History of Sanquhar. 353 

the evening was spent, is admirably described in the follow- 
ing lines : 

On a winter's night, my grannam spinning, 

To make a web of good Scots linen ; 

Her stool being placed next the chimley 

(For she was auld, and saw right dimly). 

My lucky dad, an honest Whig, 

Was telling tales of Bothwell Brig ; 

He could not miss the attempt, 

For he was sitting pu'iug hemp. 

My aunt, whom nane dare say has no grace, 

\Yas reading in the Pilgrim's Progress ; 

The meikle tasker, Davie Dallas, 

Was telling blads of William Wallace ; 

My mither bade her second son say 

What he'd by heart of Davit Lindsay ; 

Our herd, whom all folks hate that knows him, 

Was busy hunting in his bosom. 

The bairns and oyes were all within doors ; 
The youngest of us chewing cinders, 
And all the auld anes telling wonders. 

Pennicuick's Poems, p. 7. 

The teazing over, the gudewife must needs hie away on a 
good dry day to the mill (for the wool must on no account 
get wet), whence she received it, as it came off the rollers, 
in what were called "rowings," ready for the spinning. 

The spinning wheel the big wheel as it was called in 
contradistinction to the small or " wee wheel " was an insti- 
tution in every well-regulated house, and was a conspicuous 
feature in every bride's flit tin'. No mother worthy of the 
name would consider her daughter's outfit complete without 
a spinning wheel, and so it always occupied the topmost 
place in the cart which bore away the plenishing for the new 
home that was to be set up. The spinning, too, like the 
teazing, was a work relegated to the evenings as a rule, and 
the bum of the big wheel had a pleasant homely sound. It 
was the pride of every good housewife to be considered a 
good spinner, the goodness consisting in producing yarn of 


354 History of Sanquhar. 

an even thickness. This work of spinning was a most 
healthful exercise, bringing as it did the whole muscles of 
the body into play, and there was none in which the graces 
of the female figure were more effectively displayed. Dressed 
in a clean loose jacket, drawn tightly together at the waist, 
her hair tied with a bright ribbon behind her head, the 
bloom of youth and perfect health which mantled her cheek 
heightened by the supple movement of every limb, a pretty 
country girl never looked more captivating than when 
spinning at the wheel. Stooping forward with the low 
curtsey of a high-bred dame, she joins the thread, and then 
slowly raises her body to its full height, the wool, held daintily 
between finger and thumb, is meanwhile, as she steps gently 
back, drawn out into thread by the left arm, which is brought 
back with many a graceful sweep and curve till it is extended 
full length behind the shoulder; the body rests for a moment 
in a pose of rare beautj^, when, bending down with a sudden 
swoop, she darts forward, and the thread, freed by a 
sharp jerk from the point of the spindle, is swiftly 
wound upon it. We doubt not that the first dazzling 
vision that sent him head over ears in love with his lass was 
often obtained by the country swain when, peeping timidly 
through the window, he saw her spinning at the wheel. 

When all had been converted into yarn, the next 
process was another scouring to free it of the oil which had 
been added to it at the mill, followed by the dyeing the 
mysteries of producing the common colours of blue, black, 
and brown, which were most in favour, being known to all 
the women folks ; and then, after being again carefully 
dried, it was taken to the weaver, or the weaver was sent foi 
and received both the yarn and the gude-wife's explicit 
directions as to the pattern and description of the cloth 
wanted. The arrival home of the web had been anticipated, 
and the tailor had been bespoke for the making-up. 
Country tailoring work was all done in those days in the 
people's homes, and the practice of going from house to 

History of tianquhar. 355 

house was called, for what reason we cannot learn, "whipping 
the cat." The tailor took with him on these expeditions 
not only the inevitable needle, thread, and wax, but the 
" la'brod" and the "goose "the large iron with which the seams 
were laid smooth and these instruments of trade were carried 
by the apprentice, giving rise to the proverb, "The youngest 
tailor carries the goose." He remained about the house till 
the whole web had been used up, or, at all events, till each 
male member of the household had been encased in a new 
suit. A tailor's wages were Is 6d a day and his food. In this 
way the clothing of country people was procured at no great 
outlay in money, and it had this advantage that, if not 
burnt in the dyeing, the cloth being a' oo' gave every satis- 
faction in the wear. The clothing of the women was likewise, 
for the most part, of good honest homespun stuff, flannel and 
drugget petticoats, and dresses of the latter material as well ; 
the other accessories of female attire being procured either 
from pedlars, when they came round periodically, as has been 
said, or at the fairs, where great numbers of this fraternity 
congregated for the purposes of trading. These bargains 
were, however, for the most part struck at their own homes. 
Pedlars were always welcome visitors at country houses, and 
were a shrewd, wide-awake class. They studied women's 
tastes well, and had their packs carefully made up of what they 
knew would take their fancy. Their visits were looked for- 
ward to and were always welcome, and the pedlar, whether 
he might succeed in doing a good stroke of business or not, 
could always count on hospitable entertainment. Not only 
did the women folks in particular take a pleasure in the 
inspection of his wares, which he was careful to spread 
out in the most tempting fashion, seeking all the while to 
secure a purchase by a compliment to the lady's good looks 
dropped in his most artless yet artful manner, or in what- 
ever other way was most likely to be successful, but the 
gudeman was always glad, too, to see the pedlar. Living in 
a quiet and isolated situation, cut off from all the world 

356 History of Sanquhar. 

around him, he gladly welcomed the visit of one who had 
not only a well-filled pack, but a mind stored with the folk- 
lore of the whole wide district which he travelled and the 
current public news of the country. In days when people's 
society was confined to that of their nearest neighbours, before 
the age of newspapers and railways, the pedlar's " crack " was 
the only source from which they could learn what was going 
on outside the circle of their own immediate surroundings. 

The introduction of cotton in the eighteenth century gave 
a great stimulus to the weaving trade. The new material 
was applicable to a variety of purposes, and there sprang up 
a system of agencies through which the cotton yarns were 
distributed through the country districts to be woven into 
cloth. The rates which were allowed per ell enabled the 
weavers to make excellent wages ; the consequence was that 
the numbers engaged in this industry rapidly increased. 
In Sanquhar there were from 120 to 150 hand-looms con- 
stantly going when the trade was at its best, and besides, a 
host of women, who were called " pirn-fillers," were employed 
in winding the yarn on to " pirns." Small weaving shops 
were erected all over the town, containing two, four, or six, 
but not exceeding eight looms. As one traversed the street, 
therefore, his ears were filled with the steady click of the 
shuttle and the whirr of the " wee wheel." When times 
were good, a weaver who was skilful at his work and indus- 
trious, could make 25s or 30s a week, and women 6s or 7s at 
pirn-filling. Boys were apprenticed for 3| or 4 years, and 
received for wages the one-half of the proceeds of their work. 
The weavers were, therefore, the aristocracy of the tradesmen 
of that time. The work of itself was interesting, and the 
more elaborate patterns demanded a high degree of skill and 
care. They were men of high average intelligence, and had 
their wits sharpened by the frequent discussions which they 
held on all kinds of topics political, social, and religious. 
The conditions under which their work was performed in 
these small loomshops, where the numbers were just 

History of Sanquhar. 357 

sufficient to form a good talking-circle, and where their 
tongues were plied with as great diligence as their hands, 
were favourable to the interchange of ideas. The simpler 
patterns they could work almost mechanically, leaving 
their minds perfectly free for the discussion of news, 
or the debate of whatever question was at the moment 
agitating the public mind. The lot, truly, of a country weaver 
was thus, from a working-man's point of view, a most 
desirable one. They earned wages that kept themselves 
and their families in a condition of great comfort, and they had 
not to endure the grinding toil then borne by the operatives 
of Lancashire during long, long hours, and under the search- 
ing eye of overseers, who were hard taskmasters. Their 
time was pretty much in their own hands, and they could 
work long or short hours just as they liked. No startling 
incident occurred on the street, but instantly the weaver flung 
down the shuttle, snatched his bonnet, and rushed out, twist- 
ing his apron round his waist as he ran. In all the public 
days and celebrations, which of themselves stirred the blood 
of the ancient burghers, and afforded food for talk and 
discussion for days after the Trades and Council elections, 
the riding of the marches, the annual celebration of the 
King's birthday in these the weavers bore a prominent part, 
and in all the horse-play and practical joking with which, in 
days when police regulations were less stringent, the popu- 
lace amused themselves. The processions customury on such 
occasions embraced the incorporated trades weavers, square- 
men (masons and joiners), smiths, tailors, and shoemakers 
who turned out in great force. Then, the monotony of their 
daily work received an agreeable variation in harvest time. 
In days of shearing, before even the scythe, not to speak of 
the reaping machine, was introduced, a great number of 
hands were employed, and farmers could draw upon the 
weavers for a supply of labour. This was a most agreeable 
change for those whose work at other times was all in-doors, 
and during the harvest season the weaver laid in a stock of 

358 History of Satiquhar. 

health which kept him going all the rest of the year. A 
considerable number of them, too, were keen anglers. Their 
work naturally developed a deftness of hand and delicacy of 
touch, which stood them in good stead when they plied the 
gentle art. 

The hand-loom weavers all through Scotland were, as 
everyone knows, keen politicians, and those of Sanquhar were 
no exception. Through the representation of the burgh in 
Parliament, they were naturally led to take a strong interest 
in public affairs, and this interest was sustained by the con- 
tinued discussions, for which, as we have said, the nature of 
their avocation afforded exceptional opportunities. Radicals 
of the Radicals, they were in entire sympathy with every 
movement for the curtailment of the power of the governing 
classes, and the extension and development of popular 

Newspapers were scarce, but a few did find their way 
amongst them, and they were of the most pronounced stamp, 
the strong writing which they contained serving to fan the 
flame of their political zeal. Their interest was not confined 
to their own country, but during the revolutionary periods 
in France and other Continental nations they were acquainted 
with the doings of the French Republican leaders, whose names 
were familiar in their mouths, but with a pronunciation of a 
purely phonetic character, to which their owners would never 
have answered. During the Chartist agitation the weavers 
were in a state of great ferment. They could talk glibly of the 
"five points" and of the rights of man in general, and the more 
fiery spirits among them were in danger of getting into 
trouble with the authorities. The town was occasionally 
visited by Chartist lecturers, and meetings were held in one 
or other of the large loomshops, where addresses of the usual 
violent character were delivered. 

So much for the men, now let us speak of the industry 
itself. A number were engaged in weaving woollen goods 
for the country people, and were called " customer " 

History of Sanquhar. 359 

weavers, but the bulk were employed in working cotton. 
As already stated, the weavers numbered over 120, 
and worked in groups of 2, 4, 6, or 8, according to the size of 
the shop. These shops were built, several of them on the 
line of the street, others in the gardens attached to their 
dwellings, and for the most part were well-lighted and airy. 
The work consisted, at one time in the early part of the 
century, principally of napkins, called " Policats," and checks 
of various colours for dresses. About 1838, shawls called 
" Bundanes " were woven, silk in the weft and cotton in the 
warp. Provost Broom was the agent in this class of goods 
for his brother James, a large manufacturer in Glasgow. 
Later on, gauzes were introduced, woollen weft and cotton 
warp, worked very thin for use as light summer dresses. 
These required great care and delicacy of handling. They 
were followed by Tartans, some, if not most of them, all wool, 
but others of an inferior description of cotton warp. Later 
still, winceys were introduced, in which again Angola yarn 
was substituted for good home wool, for the competition in 
trade was already leading the manufacturers, in order to cut 
each other out in price, to abandon the old-fashioned honest 
methods, and to substitute baser materials. The warp of the 
web called the " chain," came wound in the form of a large 
ball, and the weft sufficient for the working of the web was 
given out in cuts along with the warp. The weft, of course, 
went to the pirn-fillers to be wound on to pirns by the wee 
wheel. These pirn-fillers worked in their own homes. The 
weavers and they sometimes laid their heads together in 
order to save part of the weft, and had to be sharply looked 
after by the agents. Notwithstanding the vigilance of the 
latter, however, the weaver sometimes had a little piece 
of cloth to sell privately on his own account, and where the 
materials for its manufacture had come from nobody knew, 
of course, but anybody could shrewdly guess. 

The weaving trade continued for a long time the most 
prosperous and well paid in country districts ; but the wit of 

360 History of Sanquhar. 

man was exercised to devise means whereby the rapidly 
increasing demand for cotton goods, not only for the home, 
but likewise for the export trade, could be met, and in 1765 
the spinning-jenny was invented, followed a few years later 
by the power-loom. These inventions were fated to work a 
complete revolution in the trade, to prove an increasingly 
formidable rival to hand-loom weaving, and at length to lead 
to its almost complete extinction. For a good long time the 
pressure was not felt, the great demand, to which reference has 
been made, due to thegradualand natural development of trade 
at home, and the increased volume of international commerce 
sufficing to take up, at remunerative prices, the whole pro- 
duce of the looms of the country of all kinds. But gradually 
the new machines came more and more into use ; great 
factories sprang up in the principal manufacturing districts, 
till they could not only keep pace with the demand, but by 
the reduction in the cost of manufacture, they undermined 
the hand-loom weaver's position to a very serious extent, and 
cast a black shadow over his future prospects. This applied 
to the plainer descriptions of goods, but the hand-loom 
weaver could still hold his ground in the better classes of 
work, the intricacies of which were beyond the capacity of 
the power-loom as it then was. It was now, however, only a 
question of time ; ingenious minds were working away at the 
improvement of the machinery, and step after step was 
gained, each one serving to circumscribe the area of the 
employment of the hand-loom, until at length the weaver 
was driven from the field, and compelled either to move to a 
large town, where jobs for which his previous experience 
peculiarly fitted him, could be had in the large factories, or 
to turn his hand to some other employment altogether. The 
body of weavers, when the collapse came, embraced, of course, 
people of all ages, and upon the older people who were too 
old to transplant, and too old to adapt themselves to any other 
employment, the altered circumstances of their condition fell 
with crushing force. They had to adopt a style of living, to 

History of Satiquhar. 361 

which, in their earlier days, they had not been accustomed, 
and their later days were embittered by deep poverty and 
hardship. The younger men and those in the prime of life 
clung tenaciously to their native town, and shrank from the 
pain of severing their life-long associations. The depression 
was, in a spirit of hopefulness, looked upon as only temporary, 
and they sustained themselves in the faith of good times 
that never were to come. Sometimes, when no work was to 
be obtained at home, things were not quite so bad in other 
towns, and they would set forth to places at a considerable 
distance Cumnock, Lesmahagovv, and even Glasgow, and 
beg for work. Any one who was successful was, when he 
arrived home with the chain under his arm, regarded with 
envy by his neighbours. The name the Calton Close given 
to a side street, was derived from the fact that at this 
period a band of weavers, who had gone to Glasgow and been 
employed in the Calton district, returned on the revival 
of trade and worked together down this close. In their 
extremity they turned for help to their municipal rulers. 
The Minutes of the Town Council contain records of appli- 
cations of this sort, and the manner in which they were dealt 
with. The finances of the town were not always in a condi- 
tion to allow of much being done in the way of relief, but 
the Council shewed a commendable readiness so far as in 
them lay to mitigate the distress of the weavers. They 
wisely made this relief subject to a labour test ; in this way 
preserving to a certain extent the self-respect of the partici- 
pants, and providing a check upon imposture. The peti- 
tioners were offered employment in certain works draining, 
road-making, &c., on the property of the town, the wage 
allowed being Is per day. There are certain risks attendant 
upon relief of the unemployed, and the results are often 
anything but satisfactory. That is the experience of all the 
authorities who have had anything to do with duties of that 
kind, and it was the same here. The work was so different 
to what the weavers had been used, their soft hands were ill 


362 History of Sanquluir. 

fitted to handle pick and shovel, and, accustomed to being 
indoors, they could not well rough it outside as an agricul- 
tural labourer might, and the wage was small. Repeated 
applications of the same kind were made at intervals 
in subsequent years, and were dealt with much in the same 
way. Meanwhile, the older men were dying out, those who 
survived were, some of them, aided by their families who had 
now grown up, whilst others, including a good many of the 
old pirn-fillers, were compelled to seek parochial relief, and 
continued for years to swell the roll of paupers. A few still 
survive, but the weaving industry is practically extinct, only 
a few of the then young men, now grown somewhat aged, 
being employed in the two woollen mills at Crawick and Nith- 
bank, while others are scattered here and there about the 
centres of manufacturing industry, where the more enter- 
prising of them, who laid themselves out in time to learn 
the new machines, are making good wages. 

Carpet -weaving in this parish was first begun in the end 
of last century at a place called Factory (hence the name), 
about fifty yards below the old bridge of Crawick. It con- 
sisted only of a few hand-looms in the weavers' dwelling- 
houses. As the trade increased it extended to Crawick Mill, 
which became the seat of the manufacture. The weaving 
was on what was known as the draw-boy system, so-called 
because, while the weaver drove the loom, a boy was employed 
who worked the pattern by drawing certain cords overhead. 
At a later date loom-shops were built, containing from eight 
to twelve looms, and in 1837 the "big shop" was erected to 
accommodate 32 looms 16 on each of the two storeys ; and 
this was followed next year with a dyehouse. There were 
no less than 54 looms going when the trade was at its height, 
the whole, together with the village, being lighted by gas, 
which was introduced in 1838. The company which was 
formed consisted of local gentlemen and farmers, among 
whom were Captain Lorimer of Kirkland, the brothers 
Wilson of Butknowe and Castlebrae, and James M'Call, the 

History of Sanquhar. 363 

last-named of whom had a practical knowledge of the 
business, and was manager then and for many years after. 
The Crawick Mill carpets acquired a high reputation for 
durability. This, more than elegance of pattern, was the aim 
of the company, and they did a large trade, not only in the 
kingdom, but also with foreign countries, principally South 
America, a large proportion of their total production being 
shipped to Valparaiso. They had also trade connections 
with North America and the continent of Europe. At a 
later date, the partners were Mr John Halliday, merchant, 
Sanquhar, and Mr William Williamson, the former tenant of 
Thirlesholm, who resided at Factory, Mr M'Oall still retain- 
ing the management. He ultimately withdrew in 1852, and 
Mr John Williamson, another merchant in Sanquhar, and 
for many years Provost of the burgh, succeeded his father in 
the partnership, Mr M'Call's place as managing partner 
being taken by a Mr Sawers. Meanwhile, the company was 
less prosperous than it had been, and they were not able for 
lack of capital to introduce the improved machinery which 
had been invented, the result being that their products 
failed to command the same market, and to bring as remun- 
erative prices. The relations between Mr Halliday and Mr 
Sawers were not of the most satisfactory kind, when the 
death in 1858 of the former, who had for years been the 
principal partner, occurred. This event caused the collapse 
of the company. Mr Sawers would fain have carried on the 
business, and made an offer to Mrs Groom, the only child of 
the late Mr Halliday, for the whole property of the company 
machinery, stock, &c., but it was not accepted. No other 
person showed a disposition to offer, and ultimately the 
stock in hand was sent to Glasgow for sale, and the machinery 
was disposed of to brokers. Thus came to an end the 
Grawick Mill Carpet Company, which for nearly a hundred 
years had contributed in no small degree to the prosperity 
ot Sanquhar. Crawick Mill was a clean, tidy little hamlet, 
pleasantly embosomed on the banks of the Crawick, and 

364 Itistory of Sanquhar. 

sheltered from almost every wind that blew, and there was no 
happier colony of weavers to be found in any country district 
in Scotland. They were almost all natives, whose whole life 
associations were connected with the place. 

We have no pleasanter memory than that of the weavers 
playing quoits, of which they were very fond, on the summer 
evenings on the " Alley" a long strip of ground on the banks 
of the stream behind the village, while their wives, with 
their clean " mutches," sat about or sauntered up and down 
chatting and gossiping, and the bairns were either scrambling 
along the wooded banks of the Crawick or " paidling " in its 
clear water, the pleasant babble of the stream, as it rushed 
over the dam-head, mingling with the voices of the men at 
their game and the joyous shouts and laughter of the children. 
The closing of the works cast a deep gloom on every hearth. 
Such an untoward event had not been apprehended, and it 
fell like a stunning blow. In truth, it was some time before 
they could realise that they must leave their old homes for 
ever, and when the inevitable step had to be taken there was 
many a sorrowful flitting. The weavers had to seek employ- 
ment in Kilmarnock, Ayr, and other towns where the 
carpet industry was pursued, and, as the train passed over the 
bridge, overlooking the village, and they obtained the last 
look of their old homes, their hearts were heavy, and their 
eyes filled with tears. In a very short time, the little village, 
which had been so long the scene of the throbbing life of a 
happy little community, was silent and deserted. The 
circumstances aroused a deep feeling of sympathy in the 
whole district, and, before the weavers scattered, a few of the 
more wealthy farmers, having subscribed 10,000 of capital, 
approached the proprietor the Duke of Buccleuch for a 
lease of the works to a new company, declaring in their 
memorial that they were actuated by no motive of private 
gain, but only by a desire to provide employment for the 
inhabitants, and to prevent their dispersion. The appeal, 
however, elicited no response, a circumstance which extin- 

History of Sanqukar. 36 o 

guished the last hope of the poor carpet weavers, and 
caused a feeling of keen disappointment among the whole 

A more successful attempt to revive the fortunes of the 
place was that in 1876, when a proposal was made by Mr 
John M'Queen to start a woollen factory. It was heartily 
taken up by Mr Gilchrist-Clark, Chamberlain to the Duke 
of Buccleuch, who always showed a warm interest in the 
prosperity of Sanquhar, and while the old buildings were 
re-modelled, new premises were erected, which were lighted 
from the roof, and a water-wheel supplied of four times the 
power of the old one. Owing, however, to drought in summer 
and frost in winter, the supply of water to drive the wheel 
is always precarious, and steam power was supplied. By 
an ingenious arrangement, whereby both the water wheel 
and the engine propel the same shaft, the steam is made 
supplementary only to the water, but the engine is of suffi- 
cient power to drive the whole machinery were the water 
power to be altogether cat off. The works embrace four sets 
of self-acting mules and nineteen power-looms for the weaving 
of blankets from 1 to 2 yards in width. The spinning 
department contains 1000 spindles, and the output, when 
working up to full capacity, is from fifty to sixty pairs of 
blankets of average weight per day. Both home and foreign 
wool is used in their manufacture. The water of Crawick, 
being very clear and soft, is admirably adapted for 

Nithbank Mill. In the year 1884 an extension of the 
trade of the town was effected by the erection of another 
woollen factory by Messrs M'Kendrick Brothers, on the top 
of the Braeheads. The machinery is propelled wholly by 
steam, the water both for the engine and for other purposes 
being pumped up from the bed of the river below the works. 
The building consists of three sheds, embracing a floor space 
of 90 by 68 feet, and various smaller erections for the different 
departments of the work. There are two sets of carders, two 

366 History of Sanqukar. 

spinning-jennies of 350 spindles each, and eleven power- 
looms. The main branch of manufacture is, as at Crawick 
Mill, blankets ; and, since their erection, the works at Nith- 
bank have had to be extended, owing to the expansion of 
Messrs M'Kendrick's trade. 

In the early part of the present century, a considerable 
trade was done in the weaving, by hand, of stockings and 
mittens, which were sold in many quarters, and bore the 
distinctive name of Sanquhar gloves and Sanquhar stockings, 
earning a deservedly high character for comfort and dura- 
bility. Both were woven on wires in a peculiar manner, 
and were parti-coloured, and of various patterns. If desired, 
the customer could have his name worked round the wrist of 
the gloves or the top of the stocking. The colours were, for 
the most part, simply black and white, the yarn used being 
very fine. As woverffthe web was of double thickness, and 
very soft and " feel." Duke Charles of Queensberry, who did 
so much for the locality, gave jointly with the Trustees for 
the Encouragement of Manufactures, 40 a year, to be dis- 
tributed to promote stocking-making, and other home in- 
dustries. Quite recently, the Duke of Buccleuch gave a large 
order for these gloves for himself and his family. Their 
superiority over all others for riding and driving was acci- 
dentally discovered by Mr Hedley, the famous coursing judge, 
who had been presented with a pair by a Sanquhar friend. Mr 
Hedley was more tickled with their appearance than impressed 
with their utility, till one day he was riding to hounds when 
rain came on, and the reins kept slipping through his fingers 
do what he might. In his dilemma he bethought him of the 
curious Sanquhar gloves which he happened to have in his 
pocket. These he exchanged for the leather, and, to his 
surprise, he was able to hold the reins quite firmly, however 
" soapy " they might become. He spoke warmly to his 
friend of their qualities, and now he never mounts the saddle 
without having his Sanquhar gloves with him if there be the 
slightest suspicion of rain. The Sanquhar people are miss- 

History of Sanquhar. 3G7 

ing an opportunity of developing what would probably prove 
a large and lucrative trade. Here is just one of those home 
industries, the extension of which is now being advocated with 
the view of checking the depopulation of our country 
districts, and affording a means of livelihood to the people 
in their own homes. Were there some local enterprise 
shewn, the foundations of what would prove an important 
industry might be laid with the expenditure of very little 
capital. But if this is to be done, it must be done with- 
out delay, as the secret of the manufacture is now confined to 
a very few. It threatens to become a lost art. 

Till about thirty years ago, women, as many as 300 at 
one time, were employed in the embroidery of muslin, 
at which good wages were earned, but this style of 
trimming for ladies' underclothing, &c., having gone greatly 
out of fashion, prices were gradually cut down to a very low 
figure, and latterly the trade died out altogether. 


Bi*ickmaking. The making of bricks is an industry which 
has flourished in this district for centuries. Perhaps the 
earliest notice of it is to be found in the Earl of Queens- 
berry's letter to his factor relative to certain repairs on the 
Castle at Sanquhar, which will be found at the end of the 
third chapter. There seems, however, reason to believe 
that bricks of a rough make were in use here even prior to that 
date (1688). Abundance of clay, excellently adapted for the 
purposes of brick-making, had always been readily accessible 
in the lands immediately to the north of the town. The 
character of a great portion of the land on that side, from 
Ryehill for some miles westward is a stiff clay ; but, in the 
vicinity of Sanquhar, it is of that particular description of 
which the hardest and most durable bricks can be made. 
There are still traces of the ancient brickfields here, where 
work has been carried on from time to time for genera- 


tious, and the name " Bricklands," which had been given 

368 History of Sanquhar. 

to this part, was doubtless derived from the brick-making 
industry. For some time in the first half of this century, no 
work of the kind was done, but the growing demand for 
bricks for building purposes, and likewise for draining tiles, 
in consequence of the extensive introduction, about the 
year 1850, of the system of draining by tiles, led to the 
opening in 1852 by Mr Geo. Cleunel of a brick and tile work 
in a part of the field adjoining that previously worked. A 
large and prosperous trade was done for many years so long 
as the draining mania lasted, but latterly the trade fell off, 
partly through the want of capital to adopt the improved 
machinery that had meanwhile been introduced. Mr Clennel 
was succeeded in 1889 by another tenant, Mr James Brodie, 
who has largely improved and extended the works, which 
are now in a complete state, and embrace five Newcastle 
Kilns and a Staffordshire Oven. The improved plant 
includes a machine for the production of pressed bricks for 
outside building. 

Meanwhile, a lease of the original brick field, which 
belongs to the Duke of Buccleuch, had been obtained by 
Mr M. M'lver, who proceeded, in the year 1885, to open it up, 
and to erect the necessary buildings and machinery. The 
works are similar in size to those above described. Mr 
M'lver was the inventor of, and the first to introduce, the 
new process of drying by means of steam, whereby, for the 
first time, the total " exhaust " of the engine is availed of, and 
distributed over the entire area of the drying- floor, thus 
securing an equable heat, putting an end to the great waste 
caused by over-drying, and saving the entire cost of the 
numerous fires formerly in use for the purpose. Mr M'lver 
is lessee of the whole field belonging to the Duke, extending 
to over eighty acres, the seam of clay being twenty-one feet 
of surface clay, and a four-and-a-half feet face of blue brick 
clay in the mine. 

Forging. The forge at Crawick Bridge is an old-estab- 
lished work, and calls first for notice. Though situated in 

History of Sanquhar. 369 

the parish of Kirkconnel, it is on the very border of San- 
quhar, and is essentially a Sanquhar industry. It was 
erected in the year 1774 by John Rigg, who hailed from 
Dalston, in Cumberland, and was the seqond work of the 
kind in Scotland, the first being at Duntocher. The 
immediate cause of a forge being started at Crawick was the 
demand for shovels in connection with the coal-workings, 
and it was at the instigation of Mr Barker, then lessee of the 
coal-pits, that Mr Rigg was induced to remove north. The 
work has remained in the hands of the family ever since, 
the present possessor being the fourth of the name. The 
machinery is driven by water power, derived from Crawick, 
a damhead having been constructed opposite the village of 
Crawick Mill, a little below the other, which affords the 
water-supply to the corn and woollen mills there. There are 
two tilt-hammers, besides machines for preparing the handles 
of the implements manufactured. These consist of solid 
steel spades and shovels of all kinds, and the firm, as was 
stated some years ago in the North British Agriculturist, 
" have justly received a wide celebrity for the excellence of 
quality, durability, and adaptability to their work " of the 
tools turned out from their forge. They are Government 
contractors, and have exhibited a collection of their manu- 
factures at the show of the Highland and Agricultural 
Society, for which they were awarded a silver medal. There 
are fourteen men and boys employed. 

The Queensberry Forge was built in the neighbourhood of 
the railway station, in the year 1874, by William Cotts, who 
had previously conducted a similar business at Penpont, from 
1843 to 1849, and afterwards at Shinnel, in the same locality, 
till his removal to Sanquhar, when he assumed his two sons 
as partners, by whom, since his death in 1880, the forge has 
been carried on. The machinery is driven by steam, and 
consists of two steam hammers and a tilt-hammer, the 
number of men and boys employed being thirteen. The 
same class of tools is manufactured as at Crawick ; but, 


370 History of Sanquhar. 

besides, Messrs Cotts are doing an increasing and prosperous 
trade in various kinds of forgings, such as cart axle-blocks, 
plough beams and heads, and sock-moulds. This firm 
also hold a high reputation for the quality of their manu- 

In addition to the industries above mentioned, there are 
none in this locality except such as are common to country 
districts joiners, mill-wrights, blacksmiths, &c. unless we 
mention the shop of Mr Peter Turnbull, who has an engineer- 
ing plant quite unusual to be found in a country black- 
smith's establishment. Here there are a turning-lathe, a 
vertical drill, and a combined clipping and punching 
machine. The work produced consists of hutch-mountings 
for collieries, wire-fencing, and cart axles, and is entensively 
carried on. In connection with the last-named, Mr Turn- 
bull, by an ingenious arrangement of his own contriving, 
finishes the conical ends of axles by automatic action on the 
lathe, whereby they are turned with a precision unattainable 
by the hand, the great advantage being that, working with 
perfect smoothness, they wear much longer than those 
finished in the usual wav. 


the Reformation, Knox and the ecclesiastical 
authorities of the new Church set themselves to 
check the loose morals of the people, and the more 
decent observance of the Sabbath was a point on 
which they strenuously insisted. Sunday-market- 
ing was then general throughout Scotland. It will be 
observed that, in the charter of this burgh, liberty is given 
to hold one of the weekly markets on the Sabbath day. 
Work of various kinds was engaged in on the holy day. It 
was also the day of the week frequently chosen for the cele- 
bration of marriages and the merry-makings connected there- 
with, and for the ordinary recreations and amusements of the 
people. In Aberdeen, it was common, in 1609, for tailors, 
bakers, and shoemakers to work till eight or nine every 
Sunday morning " as gif it were ane ouk day." Dancing 
round the Maypole on the first Sunday in May was widely 
practised, and was very popular among the young people. 
An amusing instance of the kind is given in Chambers' 
Domestic Annals : " James Somerville of Drum was a 
scholar, about 1608, at the village school at Dalserf, in 
Lanarkshire. There being at that time few or no merchants 
in this petty village to furnish necessaries for the scholars' 
sports, this } r outh resolved to furnish himself elsewhere, that 
so he may appear with the bravest. In order to this, by 
break of day, he rises and goes to Hamilton, and there 
bestows all the money that for a long time he had gotten 

372 History of Sanqukar. 

from his friends upon ribbons of divers colours, a new hat, 
and gloves. But in nothing he bestowed his money more 
liberally than upon gunpowder, a great quantity of which he 
buys for his own use, and to supply the wants of his 
comrades. Thus furnished with these commodities, but with 
ane empty purse, he returns to Dalserf (having travelled that 
Sabbath morning about eight miles), puts on his clothes and 
new hat, flying with ribbons of all colours ; in this equipage, 
his little fusee upon his shoulder, he marches to the church- 
yard, where the Maypole was set up, and the solemnity of 
that day was to be kept. There first at the football he 
equalled any that played ; but for handling of his piece, in 
charging and discharging, he was so ready that he far sur- 
passed all his fellow -scholars, and became a teacher of that 
art to them before the thirteenth year of his own age. The 
day's sport being over, he had the applause of all the spec- 
tators, the kindness of his condisciples, and the favour of the 
whole of the inhabitants of that little village." 

The demands of the Church were for a complete abstinence 
from work and marketing, as well as from amusements, and 
a regular attendance on the sermons. The Church had the 
co-operation of the municipal authorities in their efforts to 
reform the manners of the people, but the struggle was a 
hard one. So wedded were the populace to their ancient 
customs that their rulers had to be content in many instances 
with partial restriction without insisting on total prohibition. 
Some of the ordinances of the time are very curious and 
interesting. Thus The Town Council of Aberdeen, in 1598, 
ordained that " nae mercat either of fish or flesh shall be on 
the Sabbath day in time of sermon. A certain Kirk-Session 
required that "the mill be stayit from grinding on the 
Sabbath day, at least by eight in the morning." In 1594* 
the Presbytery of Glasgow is found forbidding one to play 
his pipes on Sunday " from the sun-rising till the sun going- 
to." Breach of the Sunday regulations was punished by 
fines, graded according to the social status of the offenders. 

History of Sanquhar. 373 

An elder or deacon of the church in being absent from the 
preachings incurred a penalty of " twa shillings for other 
honest persons, sixpence." These penalties were increased at 
a later period, when the scale was raised to 13s 4d for a 
householder or his wife and 6s 8d for a craftsman failing to 
attend church, and " in case any merchand or burgess of guild 
be found within his merchand booth after the ringing of the 
third bell to the sermon to pay 6s 8d." The people were 
placed under strict surveillance, the office-bearers of the 
church acting as a sort of ecclesiastical police. In Perth, in 
1582, it was ordained that " an elder of every quarter shall 
pass through the same every Sunday in time of preaching 
before noon, their time about, and note them that are found 
in taverns, baxter's booths, or on the gaits, and delate them 
to the assembly, that every one of them may be poinded for 
twenty shillings, according to the Act of Parliament." 

It appears, moreover, that the Sabbath was reckoned 
differently then than it is now. It was held to commence 
at sunset on Saturday, and to terminate on Sunday at sunset, 
or at six o'clock ; but the present system seems to have 
begun to be observed in 1635, in which year the Presbytery 
of Glasgow ordered "that the Sabbath be from twelve on the 
Saturday night to twelve on the Sunday night." Not only 
was church attendance on the Sabbath obligatory, but, in 
1600, the General Assembly ordained that "on Thursday ilk 
ouk (every week) the masters of households, their wives, 
bairns, and servants should compeir, ilk ane within their awn 
parish kirk, to their awn minister, to be instructit by them 
in the grunds of religion and heads of catechism, and to give, 
as they should be demanded, ane proof and trial of their 
profiting in the said heads." But, sad to say, notwithstand- 
ing all these arrangements for the instruction and godly 
upbringing of the people, the General Assembly felt con- 
strained in the following year (1601) to appoint " a general 
humiliation for the sins of the land and contempt of the 
gospel, to be kept the two last Sabbaths of June, and all the 

374 History of Sanquhar. 

week intervening." All students of history, however, know 
that never in any age has compulsion had much effect in 
promoting public virtue or personal godliness. The practice 
of catechising by the clergy, but under different conditions 
that is, private catechising of the people, by families in their 
own houses was long continued, and it is only within the 
recollection of the present generation that it was abandoned. 
The Shorter Catechism was the favourite subject of examina- 
tion, and many a good story is told of the concern that was 
caused by the announcement of a "diet of pastoral visitation," 
and the preparations that were made against the awful day. 
The catechism was diligently conned during the intervening 
period by the family or families who were to undergo this 
test of their theological knowledge. To master the whole of 
this compendium of Christian doctrine was no easy task, but 
the minister usually began with the first question with the 
person who sat next him, the questions in their order being 
taken by the persons as they sat in a circle. The mem- 
bers of a family, then, having arranged how they should sit, 
could calculate which of the questions it would fall to each 
in turn to answer till the whole had been gone over. And 
this plan was oftentimes adopted, and came off successfully 
if no change in the composition of the circle occurred ; but if 
any one failed at the last moment to take his or her place, 
the results were disastrous. 

While, as we have said, the people clung to the liberty or 
licence to which they had been accustomed, and were slow 
to submit to the restraints which Knox and his colleagues 
sought to put upon them, there came a time when a different 
spirit prevailed among the religious portion of the nation. 
The Puritans in England were in the ascendancy during the 
Commonwealth period, and a strong reaction was experienced 
in that country from the laxity in morals, both public and 
private, that had prevailed during the time of the Stuarts. 
The movement was from one extreme to another, and while 
it cannot be gainsaid that Puritanism embraced the moral 

History of Sanquhar. 375 

worth of the English people the men who were the very salt 
of the nation in a corrupt age the Puritans, by the undue 
strictness and severity which they imposed upon the masses 
of the population, did much to destroy the hold which they 
had obtained. They laid upon the people burdens which 
they were not able to bear, and thus prepared the way for 
the Restoration which afterwards took place. In Scotland 
they had their counterpart in the Presbyterians. Between 
the two there was naturally the closest sympathy, and so, 
throughout Scotland, the same system of strictness of morals 
and of religious observance was established, among the more 
earnest section of the people represented by the Covenanters. 
The two suffered together under the returned Stuarts down 
to the Revolution, but, though subjected to persecution, and, 
in many instances, to exile, they succeeded in maintaining 
their position, and, on the final expulsion of the Stuarts, con- 
tinued to be held in high esteem, both for their steadfastness 
to principle and for their moral worth. The stern Calvinism 
of their creed accounted for the strictness of their views in 
matters of practice as well as of doctrine. The observance 
of the Sabbath was safeguarded with the severest restrictions; 
the ordinances of religion were regarded with feelings of 
reverence approaching to superstition, and especially the 
Sacrament of the Lord's Supper. 


The observance of the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper 
has always been regarded by the Church in Scotland as the 
greatest of her religious ordinances. She has surrounded it 
with a sanctity beyond all the other offices of the Christian 
faith, and that upon no apparent scriptural authority. Its 
importance in the eyes of the Church was marked by the 
iufrequency of its celebration, only once in the half-year ; 
then, the idea was accentuated by the stringent conditions 
imposed upon the individual members. The communicant 

376 History of Sanquhar. 

had to undergo a severe ordeal before he was allowed, for the 
first time, to take his place at the table. It was only after 
strict catechising and solemn personal dealing. And, last of 
all, a practice was observed immediately before the adminis- 
tration, known as the " fencing of the tables," consisting of 
an address, in which not only the more flagrant transgressors, 
but all who had been guilty of one or other of a long catalogue 
of minor moral offences, were " debarred " from taking part 
in this most solemn, this positively terrible ordinance. The 
address, however, ended with a few sentences of "encourage- 
ment," designed to re-assure the timid mind, but many a 
conscientious soul must, notwithstanding, have been left 
in a condition of sore perplexity and bewilderment as to 
whether he should regard himself as a worthy partaker, or 
whether he did not run the risk of bringing down upon him- 
self the dreadful judgment of Heaven for an impious act. 
All this has been much modified, in recent times, in the more 
enlightened parts of the country, but in the Highlands, to 
this day, the practice is kept up in all its rigidity, the result 
being that, among a people peculiarly susceptible of religious 
feeling, and peculiarly conscientious in all religious obser- 
vances, this ordinance, presented to their mind in such a dread 
form, is regarded with an awe amounting to superstition, and 
the number of adults who venture to assume this badge of the 
membership of the church is comparatively few. "Strait is the 
gate and narrow is the way that leadeth unto life," so says 
Scripture, but truly no straiter or narrower than that which, 
at one time in all parts of Scotland, and even yet in her 
northern parts, led to the enjoyment of this gracious ordi- 
nance of the Lord's appointing. To impress upon the minds 
of the people still further, if that were possible, the solemnity 
of the occasion, there was a series of preaching days, begin- 
ning on the preceding Thursday with what was termed a day 
of " solemn fasting and humiliation." On this day, all work 
was suspended just as on a Sabbath, and divine service was 
conducted, It is not more than two or three years since a 

Histot^y of Sanquhar. 377 

shock of pious horror was sent through the church-going 
portion of our community by the first instance of a farmer in 
the parish harvesting on the Fast Day. This institution is, 
however, rapidly dying out. It has been abolished in all the 
principal towns, and even in some country parishes, where it 
had come to be observed rather as a holiday than a fast, even 
by respectable church people. The ecclesiastical authorities 
were compelled to recognise that the force of public opinion 
was opposed to its continuance, and they wisely resolved to 
formally abandon it rather than to see it degenerate into a 
sham. Its value as a day of rest has, however, been happily 
preserved, for the municipal authorities have in most cases 
arranged that a general holiday should take its place. It is 
plain that before long the Fast Day will have passed away 
throughout the greater part of the country. A. still further 
preparation for the coming Sabbath was made on the Satur- 
day, when divine service was again conducted, though business 
was not suspended as on the Thursday, and the attendance 
at church was confined to the more devout worshippers. 
Then, the dispensation of the Sacrament was followed on the 
Monday by what was called a "Thanksgiving Service." This 
had its origin at the Kirk o' Shotts a famous place in our 
religious history where, on one occasion, a service was held 
on the Monday after the Sacrament for thanksgiving. It 
resulted in so remarkable a spiritual awakening that it was 
looked upon as a signal mark of the Divine approval, and 
thenceforward the practice became general throughout Scot- 
land. These elaborate arrangements obtained till about 
twenty years ago, when a disposition was shewn on the part 
of the people to have them curtailed to a more simple and 
sensible form. The Monday service was the first to give 
way. It was followed not many years after by the Saturday 
service ; and now, as we have seen, the Fast Day is following. 
When that occurs, this holy ordinance will have been divested 
of much that tended to foster that pious, superstitious feeling 
with which the people had been trained to regard it, and it 


378 History of SancpuJtar. 

will take rank only as one, but a very precious one, of the 
various forms of divine worship. 

The manner of the observance of the Sacrament itself falls 
now to be described. When the congregation had assembled 
on the Sabbath, it was at once apparent that it was no ordi- 
nary occasion. The young people either sat aside or in the 
gallery, whence they looked with awe-struck wonder at a 
celebration which they were too young, many of them, to 
comprehend, far less to participate in. The manner of the 
celebration in Presbyterian Scotland has always been severely 
plain. The table in front of the pulpit is draped with a 
spotlessly white cloth, and bears the simple elements to be 
used in the Sacrament. That is all. The elders, a grave 
and reverend circle, sit around, while the countenances of 
the whole ministers, elders, and people alike shew that 
their spiritual nature is moved to its profoundest depths. It 
is a comely, moving sight. The observance is none the less 
touching for its simplicity, and it leaves an impression on 
the thoughtful mind not easily effaced. It cannot be doubted 
that for the thousands of Scotchmen and Scotchwomen who 
have emigrated from their old homes in the quiet rural parts 
of their native land to all quarters of the globe, there are no 
associations of their early days the recollection of which will 
so deeply move them as that of the Sacrament Sabbath. 
The usual preliminary service was followed by what was 
called the " action sermon," a discourse prepared with special 
care, and having a close relation to the day's observance. 
This was followed by the " fencing of the tables," to which 
reference has already been made, after which the minister 
descended from the pulpit, and the high and sacred feast 
proceeded. It was the custom for the members to come up 
in relays, each section constituting what was termed a 
" table." In most congregations there were three, while in 
the larger parishes there were six or seven ; there are, indeed, 
ancient communion tokens which prove that the number 
in certain cases reached ten or twelve. There was no occasion 

History of Sanyuhar. 379 

on the score of accommodation for this great multiplication 
of tables, hut even where the whole congregation could have 
sat down simultaneously, so rooted was the custom, that had 
there not been several tables, it would have been felt that 
the ordinance had been observed with unbecoming brevity. 
With the good people of that age, the very length of time 
spent over it was a measure of the importance and sacred- 
ness which it assumed in their minds. A distinctive feature 
of the occasion, indeed, arose out of the multiplication of the 
tables, and that was the singing during the intervals, when 
the occupants of one table made way for their successors. 
The Psalm associated with this part of the service was the 
103rd, sung to the tune " Coleshill," and long after the 
ancient Scottish custom of the precentor reading the line 
before singing had ceased, it was continued on the occasion 
of the half-yearly sacrament. While the strains of this grand 
old tune filled the sacred building, the communicants filed in 
and out along the isles in as orderly a manner as was possible. 
Keeping step to the solemn cadence, they walked with 
softened tread, lest they should disturb the stillness that 
reigned profound. 

As each table had its introductory exhortation and parting 
admonition, the whole followed by another sermon of an 
hour's length or more, it can be readily understood why the 
service occupied a good many hours, extending, as it often 
did, till twilight had set in. It was impossible that the 
minister could, single-handed, undertake the whole day's 
work, embracing, as it did, two sermons of portentous length, 
and an array of exhortations and addresses in addition, and, 
therefore, he had to engage the assistance of brethren. An 
allowance for Sacramental expenses is therefore a part of the 
settlement of a minister in most of the churches. The 
manner of celebration, while doubtless designed to increase 
its solemnity, gave rise to customs which led in process of 
time to those scandalous scenes which became so rampant in 
Burns' day, and inspired that stinging satire " The Holy 

380 History of Sanquhar. 

Fair," which roused the ire of the ecclesiastical party, and 
made his name a synonym in clerical circles for the Evil one 
himself. What follows will serve to shew to what, if any, 
extent it was an exaggerated picture, and whether in writing 
it Burns did not do a high service in the interests of true 
godliness ; not to speak of public decency. 

The elaborate services, as above sketched, prevented what 
would have proved a great and desirable reform the simul- 
taneous observance of the Sacrament over a wide area, if not 
over the whole country. It required a group of ministers to 
get through the work of one parish, and hence a simultaneous 
observance of the ordinance was impossible. Certain ministers 
acquired a great reputation for their Sacramental addresses ; 
their services were much sought after ; and this probably 
had much to do with the custom which sprang up of flocks 
of people gathering to the Sacrament from neighbouring 
parishes. As certain preachers acquired a great reputation 
for their addresses, so certain parishes acquired a similar 
reputation for their Sacraments. Sanquhar and Kirkconnel 
were instances of such parishes. Stationed on the borders of 
Burns' county, the ministers of Sanquhar and Kirkconnel 
could command, in addition to the talent of their co- 
presbyters, the services of great preachers " frae the west," 
whose fame still lingers among the older people of the district. 

The first and natural result of these periodical gatherings 
of preachers of ability and power was to attract the people 
of neighbouring parishes. The crowds which at first were 
drawn consisted of respectable church-going people, whose 
only motive was to hear some man of note, quite a natural 
feeling at any time, and especially so in an age when, owing 
to the difficulty and expense of travelling, an interchange of 
pulpits was not common unless between near neighbours, 
and congregations seldom heard any but the familiar voice 
of their own minister. Besides, it must be admitted that, in 
so far at least as the outward observance of religious ordi- 
nances was concerned, the last generation was more earnest 

History of Sanquhar. 381 

and devout than this. The tendency of a large influx of 
strangers was not towards that quiet which so well becomes 
all religious worship, and especially the celebration of this 
Sacrament ; their presence in the church was disquieting, 
and in truth they came in such numbers that their accom- 
modation within the building became an impossibility. 
Provision was therefore made outside. A canopy, called a 
" tent," was erected in the churchyard, in which the great 
bulk of the country kirks are situated. This was meant for 
the protection of the preacher from sun or storm, whence he 
addressed the crowds which gathered round him, and which sat 
on and among the gravestones. No sooner had one preacher 
finished, than his place was taken by another from the group 
within the church, and so the supply was kept up, the people 
thus being afforded the opportunity of hearing the whole of 
them in succession. To an ambitious preacher this was a 
capital opportunity for the display of his gifts, while the 
people were supplied with ample food for criticism, if they 
were critically inclined, which the majority of Scotchmen 
have always been in the matter of preaching. The Church 
did not foresee to what fearful abuses this system would lead. 
A dangerous element existed in the open public-houses, 
which swarmed in every country town and village, open then 
on a Sabbath as on a week-day. This danger was not so 
great so long as the crowds continued to be composed of the 
regular church-going class, but, when their numbers came to 
be augmented, as they subsequently were, by hosts of people 
who were by no means "gospel-greedy," but simply came 
for a day's outing and excitement, the evil effects were 
speedily seen. Godless scapegraces many of them were, who 
could sit unmoved under the most rousing address, listen 
with the most apathetic indifference to the judgments of 
heaven being pronounced with a vehemence and in terms 
fitted to terrify the stoutest and most callous heart, and at 
the end, walk away deliberately to the nearest village tavern 
to profane the day and the occasion by drinking and 

382 History of Sanquhar. 

debauchery. Scenes were enacted which are almost incredible 
to the present generation, but they have been described by 
eye and ear-witnesses whose trustworthiness cannot be 

In one parish, where a roadside public-house was situated 
in close proximity to the church, on the Sacrament day there 
was a constant stream of traffic in and out this place. A 
roaring trade was done, the ringing of the bells by the many 
customers keeping up a running accompaniment to the tent- 
preacher's discourse. Drinking was not confined to what 
might be called needful refreshment. The extent to which 
it was carried may be gathered from the case of a drouthy 
burgess of Sanquhar who, at a Kirkconnel Sacrament, after 
being well refreshed, coiled himself up under the shelter of 
the tent and fell fast asleep. There he lay for a time per- 
fectly still, but all of a sudden the preacher had the flow of 
his oratory interrupted by an exhibition of a very different 
character, for the sleeper, far away in his dreams, began the 
singing of " Dark Lochnagar." He only, however, reached 
the end of the first line " Away ye gay landscapes, ye 
gardens of roses," when a neighbour stuffed a handkerchief 
into his mouth, and thus brought to an end his musical per- 
formance. Again, it was no uncommon occurrence for these 
reckless characters, in their journey homewards, to organise 
foot-races among themselves. Casting their coats, which 
were brought on by friends, they footed it with all the speed 
which, in their befuddled condition, they could muster, the 
goal being of course the next wayside public-house. 

There was a curious custom at one time at Wanlockhead 
Lead Mines. Under the general manager there were various 
foremen, or "maisters," as they were called. These maisters, 
then, were allowed 5s each to " haud the Sanquhar Sacra- 
ment." To she\v how this allowance was spent, and what 
they meant by " hauding " the Sacrament, it is related 
that one evening after the Sacrament services were over, 
they hired the inn's chaise, in which; they drove away 

History of Sanquhar. 3X3 

homewards, singing " Auld Lang Syne " at the top of 
their voices. 

Stories like these might be multiplied, but it is unneces- 
sary. They might have been allowed to pass into oblivion, 
but they point some useful lessons ; and illustrating, as they 
do, one aspect of the prevailing customs and morals of a 
bygone age, they cannot be omitted if a faithful chronicle is 
sought after. One cannot help wondering why the ecclesias- 
tical authorities did not interfere and put an end to these 
scandalous customs. There can be no doubt that the open- 
air tent-preachings were at once the occasion and excuse for 
these great promiscuous gatherings. Why, then, when they 
saw that the observance of this holy Sacrament was being 
disfigured, and the interests of true religion were suffering 
fatal injury by the open and shameless immorality by which 
it was accompanied, why did they not strike their tents and 
retire within the church? Strange to say, they tolerated 
this extraordinary state of matters for many years, and it 
was only before the advance of more enlightened ideas that 
these scandalous scenes were swept away. 

In the fifteenth century, the Rectory of Sanquhar was 
constituted a prebend of the Cathedral Church of Glasgow, 
with the consent of the patron, whose right of the patronage 
and of the prebend was continued, and the benefice was 
usually conferred on a younger son of his family. Thus, 
Ninian Crichton was parson of Sanquhar in 1494, and 
William Crichton was rector during the reign of James V. 
In Bagimot's roll, as it stood in James V.'s reign, the rectory 
of Sanquhar, then still a prebend of the Chapter of Glasgow, 
was taxed at 10. After the Reformation, the patronage of 
San char Church continued with Lord Sanchar till 1630, 
when it was sold, with the barony of Sanquhar, to Sir William 
Douglas of Drumlanrig. 

384 History of Sanquhar. 

In Scott's " Fasti Ecclesiae Scotticanse," we are furnished 
with a list of the ministers of the parish of Sanquhar from 
the earliest date ascertainable down to the death of the 
Rev. Thos. Montgomery : 

1574. John Foullartoun, trans, from Kirkconnel, having also Kirkconnel 
and Kirkbride in charge with je- li of stipend, was a member of the 
Assemblies, Aug., 1575, and April, 1576, continued in 1579, and returned 
to Kirkconnel about 1580. (Reg. Assig., Wodrow Miscell., Booke of the 

1594. Robert Hunter, A.M., was laureated at the Univ. of Edinburgh, 
12 Aug., 1592, and on the Exercise there, 6th Aug. 1594, prcs. by James 
VI., 16th Deo. following, and to the Vicarage Pensionary of Kirkbride, 
1st Feb., 1602; was a member of Assembly same year, and also in that of 
1610. (Reg. Laur. Univ. Edin. Pres. (cant.), and Assig. Edin. Presb. 
Reg., Booke of the Kirk ; Morrison's Digest, and Dee., x.) 

1607. John Blaket. Nothing further is known of him. (Aberdeen 
Presb. Reg.) 

1617. William Livingstoun, A.M., was laureated at the Univ. of 
Edinburgh, 30 July, 1601; he was "lytit," for the vacant place of the 
Kirk in Edinburgh, 8th Dec., 1618., continued llth Dec., 1622, when he 
entered burges and guild brother of that city, in right of Barbara, a 
daughter of John Logane, burges of that city, whom he had marr., 6th 
May, 1617. A son, William, was served heir, 7th May, 1645. (Reg. Laur. 
Edin. Univ., Edin. Counc. and Guild, and Canongate Reg. (Marr.) Inq. 
Ret. Gen., 3054.) 

1633. John M'Millane, A.M., acquired his degree at the Univ. of Edin- 
burgh, 22nd July, 1615. He gave xx. li. towards building the Library in 
the Univ. of Glasgow, and continued 2nd August, 1638. (Reg. Laur. Edin. 
Univ. ; Mun. Univ. of Glasgow, iii. Peebles Presb. Reg.) 

1639. George Johnstoune, trans, from Linton, Peeblesshire, adm. after 
7th March; trans, to Kirkwall, 15th June, 1642. (Commiss. to Ass., 
1638; Peebles Presb. Reg. ; Orkney Patronage Process). 

16 . Kirk wood (Presb. Reg.) 

(For particulars of Kirkivood, the reader is referred to the chapter on 
the Covenanters). 

1650. Adam Sinclair, A.M., trans, from Morton, adm. before 25th Jan., 
1650. (Wodrow makes him at Morton, and one of the deprived in 1662, 
which must be a mistake for this par.) He died 25th July, 1673, aged 
about 71. [Kirk. Pap. Test. Reg. (Dumf.) and Edin. Reg. (Bur.)] 

1685. Patrick Inglis, A.M., trans, from Annan before 12th Feb., 1686, 
ousted by the people in 1689. [(Test. Reg. (Dumf. ) M.S. Ace. of Min.,1689.] 

History of Sanquhar. 385 

1693. Thomas Shiells, trans, from Kirkbride, called in Sept. 1691, 
adm. 2nd Aug. 1693 ; died 8th Feb., 1708, in his 78th year and 53rd min. 
[Presb. and Syn. Reg. Tombst.] 

1713. Mungo Gibsone, trans, from Abbotrule, called in Nov., and adm. 
in Dec.; died between 17th Dec., 1735, and 4th Feb., 1736, in 38th min. 
He had two sons, George and William, and a daugh., Janet. [Presb. 
and Test. Reg.] (Dumf.) 

[A volume of MS. sermons, chiefly Sacramental, by Mr Gibson, is in the 
possession of Mr J. R. Wilson. They are written iu a quaint, beautiful 
hand, which it would puzzle an expert to decipher, far less to copy]. 

1738. John Sandilands, licen. by the Presb. of Biggar, 30th August, 
1733, called 29th Dec., 1737, and ord. 27th April thereafter ; died (in con- 
sequence of a fall from his horse) 29th Aug., 1741, in 4th min. [Presb., 
and Test. Reg (Dumf.), Scott's Mag. III.] 

1743. John Irving, trans, from Wamphray, called 17th Feb., and adm. 
9th June ; died 14th Sept., 1752, in 20th min. His books brought 
43 Ish. 4d sterl. He marr. Helen Irvine, who died 25th Oct., 1769. 
[Presb. Reg., &c.] 

1753. William Cunninghame, A.M., trans, from Durrisdeer, pres. by 
Charles, Duke of Queensberry and Dover, in Feb., and adm. 29th May ; 
died 25th Aug., 1768, in 32nd min. He was clever and accomplished, and 
pleasing and elegant in his manners beyond most of his day, so that Cather- 
ine, Duchess of Queensberry, made him, when in his former charge, her daily 
companion, which led to his being termed "the Duchess's walking-staff.'' 
He marr. in 1745 Helen Sinclair, who died 15th Jan., 1785. [Presb. Reg., 
Carlyle's Autob., &c.] 

1769. John Thomson, licen. by the Presb. 1st April, 1767 ; pres. 
by Charles, Duke of Queensberry and Dover, 9th Oct., 1768, and ord. 7th 
Sept. following ; trans, to Markinch, 2nd March, 1785. [Pres. and Syn. 

1785. William Ranken, licen. by the Pres. of Kirkcudbright, 7th Oct., 
1778; pres. by William, Duke of Queensberry, in Aug., and ord. 22nd 
Sept., 1785; died 7th Oct., 1820, in his 70th year and 36th min. He 
marr., 8th Deer., 1788, Margaret Barker, who died 25th March, 1837, and 
had Thomas, Solicitor, Supreme Courts, Edin., and Margaret, who marr. 
Lieut. David M'Adam, of the Royal Marines. Publication Account of 
the parish. (Sinclair's St. Ace. VI.) [Pres., Syn. and Test Reg. (Dumf.), 
Tombst., &c.] 

1821. -Thomas Montgomery, pres. by the Tutors of Walter Francis, 
Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry, in Feb., and ord. 5th June ; he got a 
new church built in 1827, and died 3rd June, 1861, in 40th min. He 
marr., 24th Oct., 1826, Mary Brown, who died 21st April, 1843, aged 
50. Publication Account of the Parish (New St. Ace. IV.) [Presb. 
Reg., &c.] 


386 History of Sa nqii It ar. 

1845. John Inglis, ordained Assistant and Successor to Mr Montgomery 
28th January, 1845. Came to the possession of the benefice 3d June, 1861 ; 
died 20th September, 1881. 

1876. James M'Donald Inglis, ordained Assistant and Successor to Mr 
John Inglis, 24th Feb., 1876. Translated to Peuninghame Parish, New- 
ton-Stewart, 13th April, 1880. 

1881. Archibald Edmiston Dewar, ordained assistant and successor to 
Mr John Inglis, 1st Feb., 1881. Came to full possession of the benefice, 
20th Sept., 1881 ; died, in Australia, 6th June, 1883. 

1883. James Richmond Wood, ordained at Fairlie, 30th Dec., 1880; 
translated 6th Nov., 1883. 


Part of the present farm-house of Blackaddie was the old 
Manse of Sanquhar. It was built in 1755, and was roofed 
with heather. It was subsequently slated, and, until the 
erection of the present Ulzieside farm-house, was, with the 
exception of Eliock, the only slated house in the parish. 
About thirty years ago, some alterations were made on the 
kitchen of the old manse, where there was a jamb-lintel 
inscribed in Latin, and the character of the Black Letter is 
considered one of the very best types in existence. This 
stone is now built into one of the farm-offices. Translated, 
the inscription reads " Mr William Orichton, Rector of 
Sanquhar, son of William Crichton of Ardoch." There follow 
several abbreviations, and it has been suggested that if the 
whole were carefully cleaned the full inscription might be 
deciphered, and that it would be found that these abbrevia- 
tions testify that the Manse was built by the Rector. In 
the Chapter on the Crichtons, it is explained that minor 
branches of the family owned small estates in the neighbour- 
hood. Of these Ardoch was one. It is situated in the parish 
of Durisdeer, and was sold to the Douglas family by William 
Crichton in 1507. In the old manse Andrew Thomson, who 
became the famous Rev. Dr Andrew Thomson, of St. George's, 
Edinburgh, was born in 1779. 

The new manse is a handsome structure, situated in the 
heart of the rich land of the valley, with a glebe of 21 acres 

History of Sanquhar. 387 

attached, which is let at a rent of 63 per annum. The 
Minister's stipend in 1755 was 91, and in 1798, 150. It 
now consists of 25 chalders, one half meal and the other half 
barley, equal, at current fiars' prices, to about 320. The last 
augmentation was granted in 1884. 


It is impossible to determine the age of the old church, 
which was demolished in 1827, when the present edifice was 
erected. Symson in his "Large Description of Galloway," pub- 
lished in 1684, describes it as a " considerable and large fab- 
rick, consisting of a spacious church and a stately quire, where 
are the tombs of the Lord Crichtons of Sanquhar, wrought in 
free stone, and before them some Lords of the name of Ross." 
Further, Chalmers, in " Caledonia," says that " the Church of 
Sanquhar is remarkable for its antiquity, size, and dispro- 
portion, yet neither record nor tradition states when it was 
erected. From some sculptured stones which remain in its 
walls, it is supposed to be very ancient. It was undoubtedly 
the Parish Church before the Reformation, as the ancient 
choir is still entire, though the church is in a most ruinous 
condition." It contained several altars, one of which was 
dedicated to " The Haly Elude " (Privy Seal, Reg. VIII. p. 
114). Sir John Logan, the vicar of Colvin, granted certain 
lands and rents within the burgh of Dumfries for the support 
of a chaplain to celebrate divine service at the altar " Sacri 
cruoris dominum in Sancher Church." This was confirmed 
by the King in 1529. The old church was smaller than its 
successor, but was very substantially built, the walls being 
about five feet thick. The recesses of the windows were 
occupied by stone-cists, which contained recumbent figures 
carved in stone. The place, however, had been cleared of 
both altars and images long before it was taken down, pro- 
bably at the time of the Reformation, when so great a zeal 
was shewn by the Protestant party in removing all traces of 

388 History of Sanquhar. 

the Roman Catholic worship. One of these images is pre- 
served at Friars' Carse, and bears the title of " The Bishop 
of Sanquhar," representing as it does an ecclesiastic of high 
degree, arrayed in full canonicals. There was a loft at the 
east end of the Church, facing the pulpit, which was reached 
by an outside stair. The Crichtons had their seat here, and 
latterly the Eliock family had the exclusive right to it. 

On the top of the wall of the Church, at the north-east 
corner, there grew a rowan-tree of considerable size, the stem 
being as thick as a man's arm. It might be supposed that 
this tree had sprung from a chance seed, which, dropped 
mayhap by a passing bird, had been nurtured by the earthy 
matter gathered about the eaves, but the traditional belief 
among the common people was, that it was purposely planted 
to scare away the witches. This theory receives some sup- 
port from the fact that rowan-tree was considered to possess 
a charm of this kind. In illustration of this superstitious 
belief, the story is still told that the milk of the minister's 
(the Rev. Mr Ranken) cow having been bewitched so that it 
would not churn, the minister sent his serving-man, William 
M'Latchie, with a sprig of rowan, with directions to fasten it 
over the door of a witch who resided in Crawick Mill, a 
neighbouring hamlet. It is just possible, therefore, that in 
this instance tradition may correctly account for the existence 
of this rowan-tree in so odd a situation. 

The present Church was opened in 1828, and contains 
sittings for 960. It is a handsome structure with a square 


In the latter part of the seventeenth century, the Rev. 
John Hepburn, minister of Urr, and an earnest preacher of 
Evangelical doctrine, moved by the religious destitution of 
the south-west of Scotland, was accustomed to preach far 
beyond the bounds of his own parish. Many adhered to his 
ministrations, and, on his death, a number of them joined the 

History of Sanquhar. 389 

" M'Millanites or Mountain Men," as they were called, but 
the greater portion kept themselves clear of any ecclesiastical 
connection till the rise of the Secession, ten years afterwards, 
when they joined themselves to the Associate Presbytery. 
The Praying Society of the Sanquhar district met at Ulzie- 
side. By this gathering, application for the supply of regular 
ordinances was made to the Associate Synod. Kalph Erskine 
visited and preached in the locality. When it had been 
resolved to erect a place of worship, the town of Sanquhar 
was chosen as most central ; but supply of sermon continued 
to be given at other places, and this led to the formation of 
the congregations at Thoruhill and Moniaive. The first 
church was built in 1742, the present in 1841, with sittings 
for 500. 

1st Minister. Thomas Ballantyne, called to Leslie and Sanquhar. 
Ordained 22d September, 1742. Died 28th February, 1744, in the 30th 
year of his age, and 2d of his ministry. 

2d Minister. John Goodlet. Ordained 22d March, 1749. Died 1775 in 
the 26th year of his ministry. Author of " Vindication of the Associate 

3d Minister. Andrew Thomson, from Howgate, called to Hamilton and 
Sanquhar. Ordained 22d August, 1776. Died 2d September, 1815, in the 
40th year of his ministry. 

4th Minister. James Reid, from Newmilns. Called to Newmilns, 
Errol, Crieff, Moniaive, Lockerbie, and Sanquhar. Ordained 10th 
January, 1816. Died 9th February, 1849, in the 69th year of his age, 
and 34th of his ministry. 

5th Minister. David M. Groom, from Perth. Ordained as colleague to 
Mr Reid 10th January, 1838. Called to Broughton Place, Edinburgh, 
1841, and Regent Place, Glasgow, but declined both calls. Translated to 
Portsburgh, Edinburgh, 29th June, 1852. Was elected Moderator of the 
Synod in the year 1878. Author of " Harmony and state of Doctrine 
in the Secession Synod." He died in Edinburgh, 9th September, 1882. 
The congregation next called Mr Taylor, now Dr Taylor of Broadway 
Tabernacle, New York, who preferred Kilmaurs, and then Mr Hill, who 
preferred Scone. / 

6th Minister. Forbes-Hunter-Blair Ross, from Glasgow. Called also 
to Swalwell. Ordained 10th January, 1854 ; laid aside on account of 
ill-health. Died 21st February, 1860. In 1857 the congregation called Mr 
T. Miller, who preferred Perth (Wilson Church). 

390 History of Sanquhar. 

7th Minister. Matthew Crawford, from Glasgow. Called to Alva> 
Lanark, Haddington, Springburn, and Sanquhar. Ordained 26th January, 
1858. Called to Pollokshaws 1861, Lothian Road, Edinburgh, 1864, Brad- 
ford 1865, but he declined these calls. Translated to Duke Street, Glas- 
gow, 18th March, 1869. 

8th Minister. John Sellar, from Keith. Called to Barrow, Leith, 
Stirling (Viewfield), and Sanquhar. Ordained 26th April, 1870. Trans- 
lated to Portobello in 1878. 

9th Minister. Matthew Dickie, M.A., from Irvine. Called to Paisley, 
Birkenhead, Freuchy, Banchory, and Sanquhar. Ordained 28th October, 

The annual income of this congregation is a little over 
300. The Minister's stipend is 203, together with a small 
glebe, but in 1886 he received an important addition to his 
income by an endowment amounting to the sum of 4180, 
which was bequeathed by the late John Wysilaski, of 
Australia, a native of Sanquhar, the interest of Avhich he 
directed to be paid to the minister of the South Church over 
and above the stipend which he received from the congrega- 
tion. Membership, 206. 


This congregation was formed by persons connected with 
the Associate (Burgher) Synod, who had come to reside in 
the district. Supply of sermon was afforded them by the 
Presbytery of Annan and Carlisle, 1815. Church built in 
1818. New church built on another site in 1830 ; sittings, 
500. The congregation first called a Mr Inglis, who had 
another call at the same time from Stockbridge, in Berwick- 
shire. According to the rules of the Church, the Synod 
assigned Mr Inglis to the latter charge. 

1st Minister. Robert Simpson, D.D., from Bristo Street, Edinburgh. 
Called to Dunse and Sanquhar. The Synod gave the preference in this 
case to Sanquhar. Ordained 16th May, 1820. Received the degree of 
D.D. from Princeton, U.S., 1853. Died 8th July, 1867, in the 72nd year 
of his age and 48th of his ministry. Author of " The Traditions of the 
Covenanters," 3 vols. ; " Marty rland," "The Times of Claverhouse or 
Sketches of the Persecution," " Life of James Renwick," " The Minister 

History of Sanquhar. 391 

and his Hearer," "The Two Shepherds," "Gleanings among the Moun- 
tains," " A Voice from the Desert," " Memorials of Pious Persons lately 
deceased," " The History of Sanquhar," &c. 

2nd Minister. James Hay Scott, from Melrose. Called to Leeds, 
Biggar, Saiiquhar, and Wolverhampton. Ordained 2nd June, 1868. 

The annual income of the congregation is about 233. 
The Minister's stipend is 200 ; membership, 193. 


During the conflict that ended in the Disruption in May, 
1843, the cause of the Evangelicals was warmly espoused in 
this quarter. The Rev. Thomas Montgomery, then minister 
of the parish, at first adhered to the protesting party, but 
his wife, who had been the mainspring of her husband's 
enthusiasm in the cause, having died in the spring of that 
year, the minister faltered in his course, shewed signs of 
wavering, and, finally, when the day of decision arrived, he, 
like many others, lacked the courage to make the sacrifice 
involved, and retained his comfortable stipend and manse, 
but at a large sacrifice of public respect. A number of the 
parishioners who had, like their minister, declared their 
sympathy with the protesters, followed his example, and 
stayed in. There had been a good deal of feeling displayed 
between the parties, and this feeling was greatly embittered 
by what the seceders regarded as the traitorous conduct of 
the minister and those who changed front with him. The 
whole society of the parish was convulsed ; members of the 
same household were ready to rend each other in angry 
strife, and it was long before the asperity caused by this 
bitter controversy was smoothed, and the formerly existing 
friendly relations were resumed. Notwithstanding the 
defection of the minister and his followers, the secession 
was a large and important one, and left the Established 
congregation but a shadow of its former self. The Com- 
munion Roll of the Free Church at first numbered about 
450 members. Till a church could be built, they were 

392 History of Sanquhar. 

afforded accommodation for worship in the South U.P. 
Church, the Free Church congregation assembling in the 
afternoon. The troubles that were encountered in connec- 
tion with the building of the church will be found narrated 
in the municipal chapter. These were, however, overcome, 
and the church was finished and occupied before the close of 
the year 1844. This was followed by a manse, which was 
erected in 1849. The top of the old cross of Sanquhar is 
placed on the apex of the roof of the church porch. 

The first minister was the Rev. William Logan, who, at the time of 
the Disruption, was minister of a quoad sacra charge in the parish of 
Lesmahagow. He was first ordained by the Original Secession Church at 
Lesmahagow in 1820. In 1838 he joined the Established Church along 
with the main body of the " Auld Licht." His congregation went with 
him. He came out with the Free Church in 1843, and was, in the latter 
end of that year, called to Sanquhar. He died 2nd February, 1863, in the 
65th year of his age, and 43rd of his ministry. 

2nd Minister. Stevenson Smith, from Glasgow. Ordained September, 
1863. Resigned his charge in 1883. Died in Edinburgh in 1884. 

3rd Minister. John Fleming, from Edinburgh. Ordained September, 
1884. The average income of the congregation is 197. The minister 
receives 160 out of the Sustentation Fund. Membership, 211. 


This Church had its origin in a secession, in 1863, of several 
office-bearers and members of the North U.P. congregation 
on a matter of doctrine. They first constituted themselves 
as a separate congregation for Divine worship in a large 
room in Queensberry Square, and as a considerable number, 
of whom were many who had been non-church goers, adhered 
to them, steps were taken for the erection of a church and 
for obtaining a settled ministry. In 1864 the church was 
built. It is a brick erection, with sittings for 300, and has a 
session-house attached, which contains a library presented to 
the congregation by Mr Thomas Hyslop, Leadhills, by 

History of Sanquhar. 393 

whom additions to it have been made from time to time 

1st Minister. George Gladstone, ordained January, 1865. Translated 
to Govan, July, 1871. Now colleague and successor to Dr James Morrison, 
of Dundas Street Church, Glasgow, who was the founder of this denomina- 

2nd Minister. George Bell, M.A., ordained October, 1871. Translated 
to Falkirk, Nov., 1874. Now minister of E.U. Church, Hamilton. 

3rd Minister. George Blair, ordained Oct., 1876; resigned Feb., 1877. 
He subsequently joined the Established Church, and is now minister of a 
quoad sacra charge at Quarter, near Hamilton. 

4th Minister. Oliver Dryer, ordained Oct., 1878 Translated to Airdrie, 
July, 1883. 

5th Minister. George l)avies. Was ordained to the ministry in 1883. 
He was minister at Newcastleton, whence he was translated to Sanquhar 
in Oct., 1886, when he was admitted by the E.U. conference as a minister 
of that body. He was translated in Dec., 1889, to the Baptist Church at 
Red hill, Surrey. 

6th Minister. John E. Christie, ordained April, 1890. 


A small body of Anabaptists met for worship for many 
years in a chapel which they built, but they received no 
fresh accession of numbers, and through deaths and removals 
they gradually diminished to a mere handful of worshippers. 
Last year, owing to the death of the elder, who conducted 
the service, their weekly meetings were abandoned, and the 
chapel was sold and converted into a dwelling-house. 


A Mission is conducted in a Hall atCorseknowe by certain 
members of the various Christian congregations, by whom 
numerous meetings are held both on Sabbath and week- 
days. In addition to the ministrations of the brethren, the 
Gospel is frequently preached both on the streets and in the 
Mission Hall bv itinerant evangelists. 



REGISTER of births and baptisms, and also of 
marriages, has been kept from the year 1757, 
but it is most irregular and imperfect, there 
being found on the same page a record of events 
which occurred at wide intervals of time, those of 
an earlier being entered after those of a later date. Not 
only has this old register been irregularly kept, but the 
number of entries is small considering what must have been 


the birth-rate, on a reasonable calculation, founded on popu- 
lation. The people generally were insensible to the benefits 
of such a register, and grudged the trifling registration fee 
of sixpence, and only the more enlightened portion of them 
took advantage of it. Another influence which prevented it 
becoming anything like a general parochial register was that 
of sectarian jealousy. The keeping of this register was insti- 
tuted by the Rev. Mr Ranken, the parish minister, who, in 
the article on the parish contributed to Sinclair's Statistical 
Account of Scotland, published in 1793, says " Soon after 
the ordination of the present incumbent, he desired the 
schoolmaster to begin a register of births, and proposed, for 
his encouragement, to collect sixpence from every parent 
who came to obtain baptism for a child. This being an 
innovation, the multitude disliked it, on account of the six- 
pence, and many refused to registrate the names of their 
children for that reason. But by persevering, and pointing 
out the propriety of the plan, those of the Established Church 

History of Saivjuhar. 395 

now registrate universally. The Seceders, however, do not 
insert the names of their children in the public register." 
Moved in this way by ecclesiastical bigotry unwilling to 
countenance a most desirable reform because it emanated 
from the kirk minister the Seceders of that generation 
entailed upon their descendants a loss and inconvenience 
they never dreamt of. They felt doubtless that faithfulness 
to their principles demanded that they should thus " lift up 
their testimony." The register contains one name which, for 
length, rivals that of the most illustrious princess. It runs 
thus Caroline Amelia Eleanora Frances Culy Ferguson 
Gibson Tomlinson Thomson. The opportunity that was 
given at the passing of the Act for the Compulsory Registra- 
tion of Births, &c., to supply omissions in the old register 
was largely taken advantage of, and many pages were filled 
at that time, before the book was closed, with whole families, 
not one of whose births had been recorded, shewing the gross 
carelessness in this matter that had prevailed. 

The population of the parish was, in 

1755 1998 

1786 2600 

1800 2350 

1811 2709 

1821 3026 

1831 3268 



Burgh. Landward. Wanlockhead. Total. 

1861 2074 685 811 3570 

1871 1576 625 837 3038 

1881 1599 656 854 3109 

1891 1574 591 745 2910 

Under the Registration Act of 1854, Wanlockhead was 
created a separate registration district. The following 
statistics refer to the district of Sanquhar, and are based on 
an average of the last ten years : 

The average number of births is 59*8, being at the rate of 
26'8 per thousand of the population, the average of Scotland 

396 History of Sanquhar. 

being 29. Of these 10'4 per cent, are illegitimate, the 
average of Scotland being 7'5. Sanquhar has thus to bear 
its own share of the evil repute of the south-western division 
in connection with this national vice. 

The total number of deaths was 424, or an average of 42'4 
per annum. Of these, 85 died under 10 years of age, 28 
between 10 and 20, 25 between 20 and 30, 29 between 30 
and 40, 30 between 40 and 50, 36 between 50 and 60, 54 
between 60 and 70, 83 between 70 and 80, 48" between 80 
arid 90, 4 between 90 and 100, while two centenarians 
died, the one at the age of 100|, and the other at 101 ; so 
that, on an average, of every 3 persons born in the parish 1 
will die before 30, another between 30 and 70, and the third 
will exceed the allotted span of three-score-and-ten. The 
average age of the whole was 46J years. 

The average number of marriages was 12. 

The number of inhabited houses in 1841 was 575, and in 
1891, 499. 

Education. The first Statistical Account, speaking of the 
educational provisions here in 1793, says " There is an 
established public school in the town of Sanquhar, and, 
which is a singular felicity, furnished with an excellent 
teacher, well qualified in every respect to instruct the youth 
in the art of penmanship, arithmetic, and all the necessary 
branches of classical education. The salary and other 
emoluments amount to about 40 per annum. Writing 
and arithmetic are taught at 2s, and Latin and Greek at 
2s 6d per quarter. The character and abilities of the 
teacher render Sanquhar an eligible spot for the education 
of those who are destined to fill the higher ranks of life. 
There are at a medium about 60 scholars at the school." 

It is evident that, although the fees were so low, the 
scholars consisted exclusively of the children of the well-to-do 
people ; whatever ambition in this direction working people 
may have had was effectually kept in check by their 
extremely small wages. 

History of Sanquhar. 397 

Almost nowhere in Scotland has better provision been 
made in recent times for the education of children than in 
this parish. The parish school was supplemented by private 
adventure schools, held in a room of the Town Hall, the free 
use of which was given for this purpose by the Town Council 
" as an encouragement to teachers to settle in the town." 
A reference to the municipal chapter will shew that in other 
ways the Council evinced their interest in the cause of 
education by providing for the free education of poor 
children ; but the principal aid given in this direction was 
derived under the will of the late Mrs Crichton of Friars' 
Carse, who died in 1838, and left a large sum of money for 
the building and endowment of a school in Sanquhar, to be 
called the Crichton School. Provision was made for the free 
education of 20 poor children, and for a farther number 
being taught at half-fees. The first teacher was Mr Josiah 
Lorimer, who at the time had a private adventure school in 
the town. He was succeeded by Mr James Laurie, who 
retired in 1879, and was followed by Mr R. W. Carson. 
These were the educational provisions in existence at the 
passing of the Education Act in 1872. The Parish School 
was, of course, transferred from the management of the 
Heritors to the School Board, but the Crichton School 
continued to be managed by the Governors constituted 
under the Trust. The Parish School buildings consisted of 
a two-storey block in Queensberry Square, with the Square 
as the play-ground. The ground-storey was occupied as the 
school, the upper storey being the schoolmaster's house. 
Neither in accommodation nor equipment, however, did it 
meet the requirements of the Education Department, and 
the School Board had the house gutted, the schoolmaster 
being provided with a residence elsewhere. The floor was 
taken out, and the whole converted into one room, with a 
ceiling the whole height of the house. A large wing was 
built to the back, with offices, sheds, &c., and the whole 
class-rooms fitted with the most approved furniture, thus 

398 History of Sanquhar. 

converting the establishment into one of the finest of the 
kind in the county. 

In process of time, the Crichton School came to be dealt 
with by the Commissioners appointed under the Educational 
Endowments Act of 1883, and in the year 1885 a scheme 
was drawn up by the Commissioners, of which the following 
were the chief points : 1. The Governing Body was made 
to consist of five persons one nominated by the Duke of 
Buccleuch, one by the Presbytery of Penpont, two by the 
School Board, and one by the Town Council of Sauquhar. 
2. The Governors were directed to close the school, and to 
sell or let the buildings. 3. The sum of 10 was set aside 
annually for paying the school fees of poor and deserving 
children, with books and stationery, the scholarships to be 
awarded by competitive examination ; or as a reward for 
regularity of attendance, industry, general merit, and good 
conduct Two Bursaries, to be called " The Crichton School 
Bursaries," of the yearly value of not less than 5, nor more 
than 10, were established, which should be open to com- 
petition by scholars attending any public or state-aided 
school in the parish, and to be tenable for two years. 4. 
The remaining free income was to be paid over to the School 
Board, on condition that the Board undertook the following 
obligations, viz.: (a) To provide a sufficient salary to the 
head teacher of a school in Sanquhar, who should be a 
graduate of some University of the United Kingdom, the 
salary to be not less than the sum paid to the head-master 
of the parish school ; (b) To give free education to five 
scholars who had passed the Fifth Standard, said free educa- 
tion to continue for three years. 

The School Board accepted under the conditions, and at 
once arranged to reorganise the school, so as to effectually 
carry out the intention of the Commissioners that is, to 
promote higher education. They arranged to take on lease 
from the Crichton Governors their premises, both school and 
schoolmaster's house. They resolved to constitute a graded 

History of Sanquhar. 399 

school of two departments Standards V. and VI. and the 
higher branches being taught in the Crichton School, and the 
Infants and Standards I. to IV. at the Parish School. The 
former schoolmaster was continued head-master of the 
elementary department. The Board, having regard to the 
excellent work done by the master of the Crichton School, in 
the higher as well as the lower branches, applied for a relax- 
ation of the condition requiring that the teacher of the higher 
department should be a University graduate, and proposed 
the alternative qualification of " a teacher of seven years' 
standing, of whose qualifications to teach the higher branches 
the Board are satisfied." The point was conceded by the 
Commissioners, and Mr Carson was thereupon unanimously 
appointed. The staff of the school was fixed at Two head- 
masters, two male and one female certificated assistants, a 
sewing-mistress, and two pupil teachers. By offering a high 
salary, and taking special care in the selection of an assistant 
for the senior department, the School Board shewed their 
interest in the higher education. The present assistant, Mr 
Templeton, conducts science classes in the afternoon and 
evening, and the results have been of the most satisfactory 
kind, no failures having ever occurred at the annual examina- 
tions under the Science and Art Department, and the 
average quality of the passes is much above that of the whole 
country. The School is also a Centre for St. Andrews 
University Local Examinations, and the students, taught by 
the head -master, have taken a high place in the list. 
Recently an Infant Department has been constituted, where 
Musical Drill and Kindergarten Work are being taught in 
such a manner as to have earned the high commendation of 
H. M. Inspector. Sanquhar has long enjoyed the advantage 
of efficient teachers, and in few parishes, it may be safely 
affirmed, has the School Board pursued a more liberal and 
enlightened policy. No fees are now charged except for the 
specific subjects. Salaries The two head-masters, 200 
each ; the two male assistants, 100 and 90 ; the infant 
mistress, 60 ; and the sewing-mistress, 30. 

400 History of Sanquhar. 

There are also schools maintained by the Duke of Buc- 
cleuch at Wanlockhead for the families of the miners, and 
at Mennock Bridge, both of which are under Government 
inspection ; and in order to meet the necessities of the 
families in Euchanhead district, the School Boards of 
Sanquhar, Kirkconnel, and New Cumnock combine in the 
maintenance of a teacher there ; while, in other cases, grants 
are made to individual shepherds to enable them to board 
their children during winter within walking distance of a 
school. The following is the latest return of these schools : 

Name of School Average Attendance. Amount of Annual Grant. 

Sanquhar Public 288 30312 6 

Mennock Bridge 38 34 6 

Wanlockhead 138 140 3 

For many years Sanquhar possessed the double advantage 
of having both the schools the Parochial and the Crichton 
taught by notable examples of the old type of teacher, Mi- 
James Orr at the former and Mr James Laurie at the latter, 
to whose exceptional powers of teaching many of their 
scholars, who have risen to eminence in all parts of the 
world, and in various spheres of life, bear grateful testimony. 
They led laborious lives, and the amount of work they went 
through was astonishing. Mr Orr, a native of Ayrshire, was 
appointed to the parish school in 1842, in succession to Mi- 
Henderson, a famous Latin scholar, whose portrait in oil, 
presented to him by his pupils, adorns the walls of the school. 
The new teacher soon showed that he was destined to make 
his mark in his profession. An excellent scholar, he was 
likewise possessed of the qualities necessary to success in 
teaching a broad grasp of principles, a clear, lucid style 
of exposition, a steady, persistent application of the 
best teaching methods, and he ruled his scholars with 
a firm hand. This last was specially needful, where 
no less than from 150 to 170 boys and girls were crowded 
together into a room 45 by 27 feet, the greater number 
sitting on high benches without backs. The fame of the 

History of Sanquhar. 401 

Sanquhar " Academy," as it was called, spread far and wide, 
and attracted to it scholars from a great distance. Some of 
these boarded with the master. The training and oversight 
of these boarders was an addition to his daily labours, which 
might well have been spared, but he was tempted to thus over- 
burden himself in order that he might eke out an otherwise 
slender income. The authority which he exercised over his 
scholars within doors was also felt outside and beyond school 
hours. He was seldom seen in the town in the evening, but 
sometimes he did walk down the " crown of the causeway'' 
when the children were all at play. The first boy or girl 
who espied him as he came round the turn at the Council 
House called out to his companion in tones of fear and 
reverence, " Here's the maister," whereupon they disappeared 
in haste within doors or up closes. The word was passed 
from group to group all down the long street, with the result 
that their games were instantly abandoned ; the merry voices 
which a moment before filled the air were hushed, and the 
street was silent and deserted. When an interval had 
elapsed, sufficient to allow him to pass, young faces might 
be seen peeping round this corner and that, and so soon as 
his figure had disappeared, the crowds of boys and girls 
returned to their games, and the shouting and merriment 
went on as before. Were the conclusion to be drawn from 
this behaviour that his scholars regarded him with a feeling 
of terror and aversion, nothing could be further from the 
truth. Their true feeling towards him was that of deep 
reverence a feeling constantly cherished by youngsters to 
one who both teaches and rules them well ; they knew for 
they had frequent proof of the fact that their old master had 
a kindly heart, and, young though they were, they seemed 
to understand that the strict discipline which he maintained 
was necessary and indispensable. On certain occasions this 
stern rule was relaxed. This was done, not in a hesitating, 
half-hearted fashion, but freely and ungrudgingly, and then 
the true kindliness of the man, and his attachment and even 


402 History of Sanquhar. 

affection for his boys and girls, were abundantly displayed. 
Nothing delighted him moi'e than to be able to arrange for 
their attending one of the big " shows " that travelled the 
country, or sharing in whatever special amusements might 
occur at intervals. One particular occasion of this kind 
that which was the great school festival of the year was 
the celebration of " Candlemas Bleeze," on the 2nd day of 
February. On that day there were no lessons. Each scholar 
came, dressed in his best suit, one of the pockets of which 
contained a sum of money, greater or less according to his 
parents' means, to be offered as a Candlemas gift to the 
teacher. The possession, though only for an hour, of a silver 
coin inspired each one with a feeling of self-importance. It 
was taken out time after time on the way to school, examined 
minutely, and thrust back again into the pocket. Each 
scholar, as he entered, passed up to the desk and deposited 
his gift in the master's hand, who, of course, looked pleased 
and grateful whether it was great or small. When all had 
entered and had passed the desk the announcement was 
made who were King and Queen, a distinction bestowed on 
the boy and girl respectively who had made the largest 
gift. Two chairs, brought downstairs from the master's 
dining-room, had been placed in the middle of the 
room. To these the fortunate pair were conducted, and 
thereon they were enthroned. The whole school crowded 
round and signified their approval by hurrahing and 
clapping their hands in a boisterous manner. The only 
exception might be the disappointed aspirants, who had 
missed the coveted position when they thought it within 
their reach, but they, notwithstanding the momentary pang 
of disappointment, were carried away with the tide of popular 
feeling, and, like the others, saluted their rightful king and 
queen in a loyal and becoming manner. The ceremony was 
soon over, and it was followed by a distribution of oranges 
and long snaps, specially made by the baker, and called 
" parleys." At one time the coronation was followed bv the 

History of Sanquhar. 403 

royal pair being carried upstairs iu their chairs to a banquet, 
which consisted of a glass of weak whisky-toddy, the master 
and the bearers being the only witnesses present at this high 
state function, the former acting as cup-bearer and the latter 
standing behind the chairs, the whole party inspired with a 
solemn joy. That part of the programme was, however, 
in later years omitted. Nothing remained to be done but 
to proclaim a holiday for the remainder of the day, 
whereupon a rush was made for the door, and all scampered 
off, but before they reached home both oranges and parleys 
had disappeared. 

At other times, too, it happened that an unwonted scene 
of excitement and merriment occurred within the school. 
The master had a strong vein of humour in him, and this 
led sometimes to his inflicting punishment upon a " mis- 
behaver " in a form which led to the demoralisation of the 
school to such an extent that " the game of law and order 
was up," so far a.s the remainder of that day was concerned. 
Causing the delinquent to mount the back of another boy, 
who was made to carry him round and round the room, the 
master followed, armed with the instrument of punishment, a 
thick cane, which he vigorously plied. It was observed that 
the boy chosen to carry the offender was one whom the 
master strongly suspected of mischief, but had been unable 
to detect in the act, and, as he took care that the strokes 
were pretty impartially divided between the hips of the 
rider and the legs of his bearer, he so contrived that the evil 
doings of the latter should not lose their reward. The march, 
under the quickening influence of the cane, developed into a 
run, and the spectacle of the panting fugitives, as they made 
their hurried flight pursued by the avenger of the law, was 
one which tickled the fancy of the school, and produced roars 
of laughter, to which even the master in the end gave 
himself up. It was, however, no laughing matter for the 
unhappy pair, but this was reserved for cases of exceptionally 
bad conduct, and, both by reason of the thorough thrashing 

404 History of Sanquhar. 

which they received, and the shame of being made a laugh- 
ing-stock to their whole schoolfellows, it exercised a deterrent 
effect on the worst forms of misconduct. 

Another example of a similar kind may be given which 
illustrates the same traits of the master's character 
and temper. A Latin class which had not their lessons well 
prepared were " kept in " after school-hours, while the master 
went up stairs for tea. After waiting a long time, with no 
appearance of the latter returning to liberate them, they held 
a council of war to consider what measures could be taken 
to remind him of their presence, which he had manifestly 
altogether forgotten. The means agreed upon was certainly 
very effectual, and, knowing the man with whom they had to 
deal, they first bound themselves in a conspiracy of silence. 
Whatever might happen not a word was to be spoken. It 
was agreed that one should go to the door at the foot of the 
stair, open it, and there remain on sentry to listen for the 
first footstep of the master overhead. So soon as he was 
posted, another member of the class proceeded to the desk, 
which he opened, and seized the handle of the bell by both 
hands, which he then rung in a furious manner. No sooner 
had the ringing begun than the master was heard rushing 
along the lobby upstairs. The sentry shut the door, the bell 
was replaced in the desk, the whole class resumed their 
places in a row, book in hand, and apparently absorbed in 
study. A moment or two, and the storm burst upon them. 
Swinging the door wide open, the master sped swiftly across 
the floor, and took up a position in front of the class. His 
whole frame quivering, and his voice hoarse with passion 
" Who has had the audacity to ring my bell ?" he demanded. 
No answer. " Was it you ?" he asked the first boy. No 
answer. And so,,, down through the whole class, but all, 
true to their word, remained silent, though terrified at the 
effects of their " audacity." The master seemed the very 
embodiment of the indignation of outraged authority. Such 
an act of flagrant insubordination he had never dreamt of, 

History of Sanquhar. 405 

but, bad though it was, this conspiracy to defeat the ends of 
justice was if possible worse. Repressing his rage, he too 
was silent for a few moments, while the poor delinquents 
positively shook with fear ; then, in tones which indicated 
that a sharp retribution of some kind was to follow, he 
addressed the boy next him " James, stand ; take the end 
of this seat," the other end of which he had meanwhile seized. 
It was carried to an open space on the floor. The same was 
done with another seat and with a third, the three being 
placed parallel to each other at an interval of a yard or so 
between each. " Stand," he then called to the whole class, 
in a very determined voice. The boys stood, and were then 
directed to place themselves in Indian file behind the row of 
seats. Their curiosity regarding the arrangements and what 
was to follow, had made them temporarily forget their fears, 
but they were not long left in doubt, for the master, strip- 
ping his coat, stepped to the desk, from which he took the 
cane, and, having placed himself at the end of the seats, he 
buckled back his sleeves, and planted himself firmly on his 
legs. " Now then, come along," he shouted. " Come along '' 
meant springing over the three seats in succession, a sharp 
cut from the cane being administered as each spring was 
made. " Next, next," he called, till all were over. They stood 
trying to soothe their injured feelings by the application of 
their hands to the back of their legs, and congratulating 
themselves that, though a sharp, it had proved a short pun- 
ishment, when they heard the call "Come along, over again." 
Over again they went, but more quickly than before, thereby 
escaping part of the strokes. Round behind the master they 
ran, and over the seats like a steeplechase, hard after each 
other. Realising the humour of the situation, in spite of the 
stinging strokes of the cane, they leapt, and ran, and shouted. 
Faster and faster they flew till, breathless and exhausted, 
the master, flinging down the cane and sinking on one of the 
benches, cried " Go home, you scoundrels." They picked 
up their books, and, as they ran across the square, they heard 

406 History of Sanquhar. 

the peals of laughter with which the old mail made the 
schoolroom ring. 

He was a short, stout-built man, and his countenance bore 
the impress of a kindly nature. His figure, as he sat in 
his arm-chair, with the short-tailed coat of shepherd-plaid 
pattern which he constantly wore, his broad black waistcoat 
and ample expanse of linen, within the creases of which 
there lay little wreaths of snufF which had slipped from his 
fingers, and the stiff, black stock and stand-up collar within 
which his finely-formed head was firmly set, is one which 
will never fade from the recollection of his scholars wherever 
they may be. He spoke with pride of his " old boys," and 
his old boys will, so long as life lasts, hold him in loving 
memory, and never forget their obligations to one who gave 
them so thorough a training for the duties of life. 

He died very suddenly on the morning of 25th September, 
1861. He had been seen late the night before, apparently 
cheerful and in good health. Next morning the tidings of 
his death caused a profound sensation throughout the whole 
community, and far beyond the limits of the place. His 
body was borne by eight of his scholars (boys), and both they 
and the large company assembled were deeply moved as he 
was laid in the grave. A handsome monument was raised 
by public subscription and placed over his last resting-place. 

In Mr Laurie of the Crichton School, Mr Orr had a worthy 
coadjutor in the work of public education. Mr Laurie was, 
like him, a ripe scholar. He had been taught in the Parish 
School at Burnhead, Dunscore, under a succession of able 
men Alexander Ferguson, who was afterwards parochial 
teacher at Lockerbie ; George Ferguson, subsequently Pro- 
fessor of Humanity in St. Andrews University ; Alexander 
Keid, author of " Reid's Dictionary " and a number of school- 
books ; and William Moffat, who was translated to Heriot's 
School, arid again to the High School, Edinburgh. These 
young men all belonged to the neighbouring parish of Close- 
burn, and had been trained by Dr Mundell, a great teacher 

History of Sanquhar. 407 

of his day, at Wallace Hall, there. Mr Laurie pursued his 
literary studies at Edinburgh University, and likewise studied 
and took his diploma in medicine, after he had received 
the appointment of teacher in the school where he had been 
himself taught, under an arrangement whereby he was 
allowed to put a locum-tenens during his absence. In this 
remote parish he rendered valuable service by practising as 
doctor during his leisure hours. On a vacancy occurring in 
the Crichton School at Sanquhar on the death of Mr Josiah 
Lorimer, in 1844, Mr Laurie was offered the appointment by 
Mrs Crichton, the founder of the school, who resided at Friars' 
Carse, in Uunscore parish, and knew well his high qualifica- 
tions. Mr Laurie's success as a teacher in Sanquhar was 
likewise conspicuous. In truth, in few towns of the same 
size could two teachers of such scholarship and ability have 
been found as he arid Mr Orr, and Sanquhar was justly 
counted particularly fortunate in the matter of education. 
As in Mr Orr, so in Mr Laurie were found an intellect keen 
and robust, which had been assiduously cultivated, a singular 
clearness and power in imparting instruction, and an enthu- 
siasm in his work, together with an authority and influence 
over his scholars, which made his long professional life one 
of honour and usefulness. As has been said, he retired in 
1879, but, though now burdened with the weight of more 
than fourscore years, he continues to beguile his leisure 
hours with classical and mathematical studies, encountering 
and solving problems in geometry which would baffle younger 
but less able men. 

Mr Laurie, in addition to his proper work of schoolmaster 
here also, as previously in Dunscore, rendered public services 
of some value. His knowledge of the healing art was 
exercised for the benefit of the poor of the, town, and of 
these services many a family cherish a grateful recollec- 
tion. As a mark of public respect, and to perpetuate his 
memory in the town, the Police Commissioners, at the recent 
naming of the streets, called the lane which leads to the 
Crichton School Laurie's Wynd. 

408 History of Sanquhar. 

Poor. From the following, it will be seen that, when 
statutory provision was first made for the relief of the poor, 
the applicants admitted were very numerous, though a con- 
siderable number had only small sums allowed to them to 
pay their house-rents. Before many years, the roll had been 
reduced to reasonable limits, and a corresponding fall in the 
rate took place. It has varied very little since, and the 
number of paupers is smaller now than it has ever been, 
while the rate of allowance has been increased very materi- 
ally. The great increase in agricultural rents that has taken 
place within the last thirty years prevented any consequent 
increase of the rate that might have been necessary, owing 
to the larger deductions allowed from the gross valuation of 
lands and heritages in fixing the assessable value. Till 
recently, these deductions were On the railway property, 
25 per cent. ; and on all other classes of property, 10 per 
cent. Now they are On railway property, 35 per cent. ; 
house property, factories, &c., 25 per cent. ; agricultural 
lands, woods, shootings, &c., 20 per cent. The enormous 
advance that has been made during the last hundred years, 
by the improvement of the land and the general expansion 
of trade, is seen in the increased value of property. In 1793 
the total valuation of the parish, exclusive of the burgh and 
Wanlockhead, was only 2500 per annum ; in 1890 it 
amounted to Burgh, 4043 ; parish, 14,284 ; total, 
18,327. The valuation of Wanlockhead is 1768. Grand 
Total, 20,095. 



Lieutenant-General M'Adam, who had been married to a 
daughter of Rev. Mr Ranken, the minister of Sanquhar, died 
in the year 1859, and intimation was received from his 

No. of Paupers. 

Weekly Aliment. 

Poor-Rate per . 


Is lOd 



Is 4d 



2s 7d 






3s 2d 


History of Sanquhar. 409 

agents that, by his will, he had directed that the residue of 
his estate, after providing for certain bequests, should be put 
into " The Poor's-box of Sanquhar." The phrase being a 
rather ambiguous one, a contention arose between the 
Parochial Board and the Kirk-Session as to the right of 
administration, but they wisely, to avoid the expense of 
litigation in determining the dispute, entered into an arrange- 
ment for a joint-administration of the fund by the Kirk- 
Session and representatives appointed by the Parochial 
Board, the Moderator of the Session and the Chairman of 
the Board being the Chairman of the Trust in alternate 
years. The bequest amounted to 350, the interest of 
which is distributed annually among the deserving poor, 
whether paupers or not. 

The natural tendency of a statutory relief of the poor is 
to dry up the springs of private charity ; notwithstanding, 
there is a good deal of seasonable benevolence shewn by 
wealthy people in the district and by Sanquharians abroad ; 
and a long-standing and commendable custom among the 
curlers is, during a protracted frost, to play matches for gifts 
oatmeal, potatoes, bread, tea for the poor. During 
one of the severe winters of recent years no less than 400 
stones of oatmeal, and a large quantity of other commodities, 
were bestowed upon the poor from this source. Further, 
each congregation makes an annual collection for behoof of 
its own poor. 

Library. A good subscription library has been in exist- 
ence since the year 1800. It is accommodated, free of rent, 
in the Council Chamber. It contains 2800 volumes, repre- 
senting the whole field of literature, and additions are 
constantly being made to the shelves. Meetings are held 
once a week for the exchange of books. The annual sub- 
scription is 4s. 

Savings Bank. A savings bank for Sanquhar and the 


410 History of Sanquhar. 

surrounding district was established in the year 1818. The 
amount of deposits was as follows : 1840, 5000 ; 1851, 
5732 ; 1861, 6803 ; 1870, 10,151 ; 1880, 16,557 ; 1890, 
18,895. Number of depositors at this date, 530. These 
figures bear testimony to the prudent and thrifty habits of 
many of the inhabitants. Till the year 1860, the progress 
was rather slow, owing to the decaying condition of the 
weaving trade, and the closing of the carpet work at Crawick 
Mill ; but, from that time, as n result of the high tide of 
agricultural prosperity, and the rapid rise of wages generally, 
the progress of the bank has been by leaps and bounds, and 
now it will bear comparison with almost any institution of 
the kind in the country. The sum of 10,700 is invested in 
land and other securities, and the balance lodged with the 
British Linen Company Bank. The rate of interest is 
generally about one per cent, above that allowed in the 
public banks. 

A Choral Union was instituted in 1889, and is composed 
of about fifty voices. The two past sessions were each brought 
to a close with a very successful concert, and the Society 
promises to do something to raise the tone of musical culture 
in the town. 

The revenue of Sanquhar Post Office in 1793 was 112. 
In 1890 (from stamps alone) it amounted to 724 6s 4d. 

Socizl Economics. The general condition of the popula- 
tion has, in common with other parts of the country, experi- 
enced a wonderful improvement during the course of the 
present century. This amelioration had, indeed, already 
commenced towards the end of the previous century, for, in 
the article on the parish in Sinclair's " Statistical Account " 
we have the following report on wages : " Men servants 
about 1760, 2 10s per annum, and 3 was the maximum. 
Female servants, 1 15s and 1 10s per annum. Now 
(1793), the former are from 7 to 8 and 9, the latter from 
3 to 4 per annum. The wages of handicraftsmen of every 

History of Sanquhar. 411 

description are likewise increased in the same proportion." 
These figures give the reader a vivid conception of the grind- 
ing poverty of the working classes in that age. It becomes 
a subject of wonder to the present generation that they 
managed to keep body and soul together. Their food must 
have been both coarse and scanty, and, housed as they were 
in low-roofed, ill-ventilated hovels, their lives must have been 
miserable in the extreme. And yet, we find their parish 
minister remarking in the following terms on the improve- 
ment in their condition they had begun to experience : 
" If the wages of servants ought to keep pace with the influx 
of wealth, the improvement of land, and the introduction of 
manufactures, a principle which seems founded in reason and 
equity, and if the influx of wealth depends in a great measure 
on the improvement of land and the flourishing state of 
manufactures, there is no just proportion between the wages 
of servants and these two sources of wealth : the former 
having risen to an enormous pitch, while the latter are only 
in a state of infancy. Admitting the principle, however, on 
the ground of equity that servants' wages ought to rise in 
proportion to the wealth of a country, the same principle 
ought certainly to extend universally to all other descriptions 
of men in the various departments of life. This appears 
necessary to the very existence and preservation of civil 
society, that the various orders of men may not jostle each 
other, but keep their proper ranks." 

One is amused with the writer's crude notions of the 
principles of political economy, and the confusion into which 
he falls in seeking to give them expression ; but not less is 
one moved with a feeling of indignant surprise that he should 
shew so little sympathy with the betterment of at least the 
material condition of his flock. It is evident that the 
question is in his mind one of " the masses against the 
classes." He is fearful lest the broad distinction between 
the two should be lessened in the smallest degree anxious 
" that the various orders of men may not jostle each other, 

412 History of Sanquhar. 

but keep their proper ranks ;" that is to say, that the poor 
may not, on the ground of their elevation in the social scale, 
rebel against the subserviency imposed upon them by long- 
established custom, but continue dutifully submissive to the 
wealthy and governing classes. A form of advice this which 
came with rather a bad grace from the lips of one who 
enjoyed an income of 105, together with a very fine glebe 
of 20 acres of the very fat of the land a comfortable provision 
in times when beef and mutton sold at 3d and 3|d per lb., 
and eggs at 2|d to 3|d per dozen. He thus looks with a 
jealous eye on his parishioners, notwithstanding that he feels 
constrained to acknowledge that " they are, with a few 
exceptions which are to be found in every age and in every 
society, an industrious, rational, and religious set of people, 
regular in attendance upon divine ordinances, and pay a 
proper regard to the duties of social life. It must be 
acknowledged that the frequent collision of political influence 
in the burgh is an enemy to their peace, and tends to relax 
every social, moral, and religious obligation, and as these are 
relaxed corruption spreads its baneful influence. No doubt 
the substitution of dram instead of ale-houses has the same 
pernicious tendency. But, upon the whole, their character 
is respectable, hospitable to strangers, humane to the 
distressed, active in their station, decent in their apparel, 
and generally contented with the allotments of providence. 
Agriculture, and especially the pastoral life, are favourable 
to that integrity and simplicity of manners which characterise 



H E village of Wanlockhead lies at the north-east 

corner of the parish of Sanquhar, from which town 
it is distant eight miles. The road leading to it is 
described in the Chapter on Topography. The 
village derives its existence from the lead-mines belonging to 
the Duke of Buccleuch, which have been worked from a 
remote period. A detailed account of these will be found at 
the end of this chapter. The miners' houses are built in 
the most charmingly irregular order. They lie for the most 
part round the base of the Dod Hill, from which the inhabi- 
tants are frequently nick-named " The Dodders." Originally 
all thatched with heather, a large number are now of modern 
construction, and are roofed with slate. They consist, for 
the most part, of a " but and a ben," are low-roofed, and 
many of them are furnished with box-beds. They are very 
cosy and comfortable, and are inhabited by a remarkably 
strapping, fine-looking body of miners. In another situation, 
objection might be taken to the want of ventilation, but, 
built at such an altitude, in small rows, with wide spaces 
between, the same necessity for space within doors does not 
exist. There are several good and commodious houses in the 
village the company's house, as it is called, and those of 
the manager, the doctor, the clerk, and the schoolmaster, 
besides the two manses, the Established and the Free 

" Social habits are, to some extent, cultivated. Friends assemble to eat 
the ' blythe meat ' at births and christenings. Formerly, but not now, a 
pound of tea was known to suffice for a large party at the marriage-table, 

414 History of Sanquhar. 

blythe meat christening, and during the interval. When any accident 
occurs, all private differences are laid aside ; sympathy and willing assist- 
ance are universal. Coffins for the dead are supplied from the workshop, 
partners dig the grave and perform other last offices, so that a trifle to the 
keeper of the mortcloth is the only absolute expense incurred. 

" A marriage at the village is generally an occasion of rejoicing, and is 
the chief topic discussed for a length of time. When a member of the 
[instrumental] band is married, the whole population turns out to witness 
the procession. Sounds of martial music are heard in the distance, and 
then more plainly reverberating amongst the hills, until, preceded by the 
brass baud of the village, the bridegroom and his party of friends are 
conducted to the cottage of the bride's friends. By her side the bride- 
groom takes his place ; and, in reply to the questioning of the village 
pastor, and in the presence of as tnany friends as can be crowded into the 
little kitchen, he vows to be unto her a faithful and loving husband until 
death should part them. The necessary document being duly signed and 
attested, congratulations over, refreshments partaken of there and in the 
other cottages filled with friends, pence collected and handed to the 
minister, the best-man then comes forward and offers his arm to the bride 
to head the procession, which, two and two, goes forward, the bridegroom 
being brought on at the end by the father, along with the minister. The 
band, in their smart uniform, having formed at the door, precedes, playing 
their liveliest tunes. The bride, of course, is the centre of attraction, 
especially to the wives and daughters, who, plaids over head, press forward 
to get a close inspection ; and such notes of admiration are heard as ' Eh ! 
but she is braw and bonnie !' Arrived at the new dwelling, which has 
been plenished with drawers, cupboard, presents and necessaries, the new 
wife, wh'o is saluted with a shower of oatcakes, is led to the lireside to 
' poke the ribs ' with the tongs in proof that she has taken possession ; and 
then the company are seated at tables laden with good things in a room or 
rooms (no proper hall being as yet possessed). These having been partaken 
of, the company, crossing their arms and joining hands, sing : 
' W eel may we a' be, 

111 may we never see ; 

God bless the Queen, 

And this companie.' 

Three times this is repeated ' to fl'ie the rattens ' with rounds of 
applause, and then the ceremonies being concluded in truly orthodox 
fashion, the minister retires, and the ladies prepare for the evening enjoy- 
ment. Marriages are generally among themselves ; seldom does a young 
miner, in selecting his bride, go beyond the circle of the belles of the 
village." Porteouts' God's Treasure House. 

The miners are a strong, healthy body of men, and, unlike 
miners generally, reach to a good average age. In their 

History of Sanqvliar. 415 

underground work, the position of the body is not so cramped 
as in many coal-mines, nor have they to breathe the same 
vitiated atmosphere. Besides, their working-hours per week 
are not excessive. They work largely in small partnerships 
on the " bargain " system, and make good wages. The miners 
have also the right to the pasturage of about 500 acres of 
mountain-land, small plots of which are cultivated on the 
crofter system, a cow and pet sheep being kept by each ; 
while the meadow land provides hay for winter fodder, which 
is cut and made in the intervals of work. This privilege 
adds largely to the resources of the households. They are an 
intelligent body of men, and provision is made for their 
mental culture. A reading society has existed since 1756, 
which possesses a well-stocked library containing nearly 3000 
volumes representing all sorts of literature. 

Wanlockhead is a place with a burying-ground of its own, 
but it has no grave-digger. This last office is performed for 
the dead by the miners themselves. Working in partner- 
ships of usually four members, when any partner or his 
relation dies (and the people are all closely inter-married and 
related at Wanlockhead), the grave is dug by the other 
members of the partnership, This custom enabled a native 
to have his joke at the expense of a friend in the lower part 
of the county whom he was visiting. His friend, who had 
never been at Wanlockhead, inquired what sort of a place it 
was. " Was it big ?" " Oh ! it's no vera big," answered the 
native, " but it's a wunnerfu' bit bit, tae. There's three 
bedlers (Wanlockhead for beadles) in it." 

The application of steam to the purposes of navigation, 
which took place about 100 years ago, marked a new era in 
the progress of the human race, and in particular contributed 
in no small degree to the development of the industrial and 
commercial prosperity of this country. The daring and skill 
of her great naval commanders of that and previous genera- 
tions had raised our little sea-girt isle to the rank of mistress 
of the sea. The application of steam to navigation afforded 

416 History of Sanqukar. 

the opportunity of still further enhancing the reputation of 
this country in shipbuilding, and enabled her to secure and 
retain a commanding hold of the carrying trade of the world, 
which now advanced by rapid and gigantic strides as the 
result of this new method of propulsion. The sailing of the 
sea was from this time completely revolutionised. Vessels 
had no longer to wait for a favourable breeze ; they were no 
longer the sport of fitful wind and wave, and their crews had 
not now their dreams disturbed with the terror of being 
becalmed, and of lying under an equatorial sun doomed to a 
horrible and lingering fate. International commerce has, 
since the time of this great discovery, advanced by leaps and 
bounds, the horrors which too often accompanied a sea voyage 
long ago have almost entirely disappeared, and the time 
occupied has now been reduced to a minimum. Even the 
passage to America, short though it was, in comparison to the 
long, tedious voyages round the Cape to India or Australia, 
was a serious matter. Tumbling about the Atlantic for a 
month, in what was often no better than a tub, involved a 
considerable degree of bodily discomfort and misery, and the 
chance of shipwreck was a contingency, the possibility of 
which could by no means be left out of account. The 
emigrant, as he passed up the street of his native village, 
with his slender outfit tied on a barrow, was regarded by his 
neighbours with a mixed feeling of wonder and pity, and the 
partings that took place had all the element of sadness and 
bitterness which belong to a final leave-taking. All that is 
now, happily, changed. The fleets of vessels that now 
conduct the carrying trade between this country and every 
quarter of the globe that presents an outlet for the colonizing 
spirit of the Anglo-Saxon race, have been brought to such a 
state of perfection, that the emigrant is no longer an object 
of commiseration. The Transatlantic passage is now con- 
fined within the week, and, provided the weather be at all 
moderate, the passenger, if he be fortunate enough to avoid 
the acquaintance of the dreaded mal-de-mer, enjoys all the 

History of Sanquhar. 417 

luxuries of a floating hotel of the firct-class. It now involves 
no greater time and less risk than attached in former days 
to the journey between Scotland and London. A halo of 
romance surrounded the very names of India, Australia, and 
the South Seas, and the stories of stirring life under eastern 
and southern skies came to the ear like tidings from another 
world. But now, the conditions of travelling by both land 
and sea have been so completely changed that the inhabi- 
tants of the Antipodes have become in a sense our near 
neighbours. The development of international commerce, 
establishing business and friendly relations between different 
peoples, has had an influence beyond any other in destroying 
racial hatreds and jealousies, and guaranteeing the peace of 
the world. Such being the effects of the introduction of 
steam navigation, it would be difficult to over-estimate the 
benefits which it has conferred upon mankind. 

It is, therefore, a proud distinction which this village 
enjoys of having been the birth-place of steam naviga- 
tion. When the world-wide importance of the discovery had 
begun to be realised, a controversy arose among the several 
persons who appear to have been associated in the original 
experiments culminating in the first successful voyage 
under steam which took place on the little loch at Dalswin- 
ton on October 14th, 1788 as to which of them was entitled 
to the honour of having first made this great and momentous 
discovery. So eager has each been to snatch the coveted 
fame that probably no one has done justice to the claims of 
the others. The story, drawn from the whole ascer- 
tained facts and circumstances, seems to be this : Mr Miller 
of Dalswinton, in the year 178-5, engaged as tutor for his 
family a Mr James Taylor, of Leadhills, a gentleman who had 
received a liberal education in the University of Edinburgh. 
Mr Miller, who was of a speculative turn of mind, was at the 
time engaged in a series of experiments on shipping, and had 
designed paddle-wheels as a motive power. These paddles 
were turned by a capstan which kept four men laboriously 


418 History of SanquJ/ar. 

employed. It was plain, however, that this method would 
never be applicable to large vessels or to long voyages, and 
Miller, at his wits'-end, begged Mr Taylor to set his ingenuity 
to work to supply, if possible, the desideratum. After anxious 
thought, Mr Taylor suggested the steam-engine. Miller was 
incredulous, but Taylor firmly believed in the feasibility 
of the idea, and, having overcome Miller's objection, it was 
decided to make a trial. Taylor, in search of a practical 
engineer to construct an engine suitable for the purpose, had 
recourse to one William Symington, an old friend and school- 
fellow, who, with his brother George, had previously invented 
a steam-carriage described as " like an ordinary-sized kist." 
An old man, John Black, who was living when the Cale- 
donian Railway was opened, on being invited to go to Elvan- 
foot to see the wonderful new steam-carriage, replied, " I 
need hardly travel sae far for sich a purpose, for I hae seen 
a steam-carriage mony a year syne rinnin' in the Aul' Manse 
there." The tradition is that this steam-carriage was first 
run on the floor of the kitchen of the Old Manse at Wan- 
lockhead, which the Symingtons inhabited. It was to these 
brothers, then, that Taylor turned in the hope of solving the 
difficulty of applying steam to the navigation of vessels. 
They laid their heads together, the Symingtons and he, 
the result being that a small engine was designed and con- 
structed, by means of which the celebrated trip was made 
on Dalswinton Loch. It was between Taylor and the 
Symingtons chiefly that the contention arose as to the 
merit of the invention, but it should not be difficult for 
any unprejudiced person to determine in his own mind 
the share which each probably had in it. But, indeed, 
a claim is also made in the same connection on behalf 
of one John Hutchison, an old smith, as having con- 
tributed something to the perfecting of the engine. The 
story is told in two forms. Old John had been engaged in 
the work of constructing the engine. A hitch had occurred 
with some part of the machine, which hindered its working, 

History of Sanquhar. 419 

aud which formed a puzzle to the inventors. One form of 
the subsequent story is that he was lying in bed on Sunday 
morning, pondering the difficulty, when the idea how it could 
be overcome flashed into his mind. Jumping out of bed, he 
drew the plan on the hearthstone, and subsequently, on the 
same day to Symington, on the road, when out walking ; on 
his return, it was worked out in a practical way in the smithy, 
the remark being passed between them " The better day the 
better deed." Another version has it that it was while Syming- 
ton and Hutchison were walking together on the Stake-Moss 
hill on the Sunday, discussing the subject, when the latter con- 
ceived the plan, and at once made a rough drawing of it on 
the road. To whatever extent we may be indebted to each 
of the claimants for this invention, with such stupendous and 
far-reaching results, there can be no doubt, at all events, that 
Wanlockhead was its birth-place. It does seem strange that 
it should have originated in perhaps the most inland place in 
all Scotland, and that, as it has been happily put, "as the 
source of the noble Clyde can be traced to our very neigh- 
bourhood, so can the origin of that majestic fleet which walks 
its waters like a thing of life be traced to our very doors." 

It may be mentioned that this year (1891) a monument, 
raised by subscription, has been erected at Leadhills in honour 
of Symington. 

The miners find their recreation aud amusement out of 
doors in such games as running, quoiting, and curling. They 
are also keen anglers. Saturday being an off-day at the 
works affords them the opportunity of fishing the head- 
waters of the Clyde, which are reached by passing round the 
slope of the Lowthers, and are at no great distance, being 
their favourite ground, though they pay frequent visits to 
Crawick and its tributary Spango. Situated so high above 
sea-level, the Waulockhead miners enjoy the game of curling 
much more frequently than their confreres anywhere else, 
and better curlers can nowhere be found. A reference to 
their prowess in the game, and their connection with the 
Sanquhar curlers, will be found in the chapter on " Curling." 

420 History of Sanquhar. 

It must not be supposed, because there is no public-house 
in the village, that teetotalism is universal or even general. 
That is far from the case. At the New-Year season, and on 
all occasions of merry-making, drinking is one of their social 
habits, the wherewithal being readily procurable at Leadhills, 
only two miles distant. But the drinking that is indulged in 
is only periodical, and that is due, doubtless, to the fact that 
the public-house and its temptations are not constantly 
obtruded upon the notice of the inhabitants. Were the pay- 
days more frequent, and were there a public-house at their 
doors, the state of the village would probably be very different. 
As it is, the miners are a respectable, moral-living com- 

Co-Operative Society. The principle of association for 
mutual benefit has been given effect to among them. In 
1871, a Co-Operative Society was instituted, and has 
proved a flourishing and beneficial institution. The follow- 
ing is the last annual return made to the Registrar : 
Number of members, 329 ; share capital, 1774 8s ; nett 
sales for the year, 6206 9s 5|d ; stock-in-trade, 1166 
10s 10'd; liabilities, 2298 8s 9|d ; assets, 2584 9s Id ; 
value of fixtures, 19 12s 0|-d ; dividend paid to members 
for the year, 952 6s lid ; interest paid on shares at 10M 
per , 70 14s 4|d. 

" The Heather Bell" Lodge of the Oddfellows' Society was 
established here in 1867, and has proved most prosperous 
and useful. It embraces practically the whole body of the 
miners. The membership on 31st December, 1890, was 239, 
and the accumulated funds amounted to 1188 9s 2d. The 
branch is affiliated to the Manchester Friendly Society. 

A society also exists for the relief of the aged and infirm, 
which was established in 1879. Previous to that time there 
was a kindly custom among the miners that, if one of a part- 
nership died, his widow was allowed to enjoy the proceeds of 

History of Sanquhar. 421 

what would have been her husband's share, after certain 
necessary deductions ; if he left a son, the lad succeeded to 
his father's partnership. In this way, without parochial aid, 
the poor of the village were saved from feeling the pinch of 
poverty and hardship. The system, however, was discon- 
tinued immediately after the village and works were first 
called upon by the Parochial Board to pay the statutory 
assessment for the relief of the poor, and this society was set 
up, which enables many to avoid the stigma of pauperism. 
The membership is 157 ; the capital, 200 7s Id ; and the 
contribution of members, 4s per quarter. Relief is given 
amounting to 8s per week for the first three months ; there- 
after, 6s per week for a further period of six months ; 2s per 
week for another twelve months ; and a permanent allow- 
ance of Is for any extended period. The funeral gift is 1. 
The relief given almost balances the contributions, owing to 
the younger men preferring to join the Oddfellows' or 
Foresters' Society. 

The chapel was built in 1755 by the Mining Company, 
and cost only 70 or 80. It was rebuilt and enlarged in 
1848. The stipend was only from 60 to 65, with a house 
and an acre of land. Wanlockhead was erected by the Court 
of Teinds as a quoad sacra parish on 27th January, 1861, at 
the sole expense of the proprietor, the Duke of Buccleuch 
and Queensberry. The deed by His Grace conveying two 
farms in perpetuity for the endowment of this quoad sacra 
church, and accepted by the Court, says : " The petitioner 
will give security over the lands of Carcoside and Orchard, 
both belonging to him, in fee simple, and lying in the barony 
of Sanquhar, and parish of Kirkconnel." The sittings in 
Wanlockhead Established Church number 325. Communi- 
cants, 140. 


173S. Alexander Henderson, preacher. 

1750. Laurie. 

1772. John Williamson, afterwards of Tinwald. 

422 History of Sanquhar. 

1777. Bryce Little, afterwards of Coviiigtou. 
1789. John Williamson, afterwards of Durisdeer 
1794. John Henderson, afterwards of Dryfesdale. 
1800. James Ritchie. 

1803. William Osburn, formerly of Tillicoultry, who died 25th June, 1812, 
in the 68th year of his age, and 39th of his ministry. 

1813. John Henderson, formerly of Middleburgh, who died 14th Septem- 

ber, 1814, in the 62nd year of his age, and 29th of his ministry. 

1814. Robert Swan, of Cockermouth. 

1835. Thomas Hastings, Holywood, who joined the Free Church in 1843. 
1843. Patrick Ross, Birkenhead. 

1847. John Inches Dickson, Kirkbean, afterwards of Paisley and Kirk- 


1848. James Laidlaw, formerly of Bewcastle, who retired in 1883, and died 

in 1887. 
1883. Donald M'Millan, trans, to Auchtertool, Fife, and now (1891) to 

Kelvinhaugh, Glasgow. 
1886. C. Patrick Blair, formerly assistant in Crailing, Roxburgh. 


At the Disruption of the Church of Scotland in 1843 the 
Rev. Thomas Hastings, then minister of Wanlockhead, cast 
in his lot with the Free Church party, and in going out took 
with him 200 communicants. . . . He was thus for eight 
years chaplain or minister in the Established Church. The 
Duke of Buccleuch was one of the many landlords of Scot- 
land who not only gave no countenance to the secession, but 
refused to grant land whereon to build a church or 
manse. This policy of site-refusing resulted, in many cases, 
only in a less convenient or less suitable one being chosen 
than might otherwise have been obtained ; but, at Wanlock- 
head, where every inch of land belonged to one individual, 
his refusal constituted a greater act of oppression. But the 
great healing power of time obtained fresh proof in this case, 
and at length a site for a church, and subsequently for a 
manse, was granted. Meanwhile the greatest hardships had 
to be endured in this high and stormy region. The circum- 
stances of the people evoked a wide-spread feeling of interest, 
and they were encouraged in their noble endurance by the 

History of Sanqul tar. 423 

visits and ministrations of some of the foremost men of the 
Free Church. Dr Porteous thus describes the incidents that 
occurred : " The Rev. Dr Chalmers preached in the tent on 
the hillside of Wanlockhead Hass in the summer of 1846. 
There never had been such a gathering of worshippers at 
that place. It was computed that there were at least 2500 
persons present. When the venerable man of God looked 
around, and had given out his text, his first words were, 
'' Now, I can tell you nothing new.' Although his MS. was 
before him he spoke with his fervid eloquence and power, 
and, to the delight of the villagers, ' without reading.' " As 
it was long before a site was obtained for a church many 
men of mark Drs Pitcairn, Clason, Candlish, Guthrie, &c. 
gave similar countenance to the congregation. When Dr 
Candlish preached, the rain fell in torrents, and little that he 
said could be heard owing to the pattering of the rain upon 
the umbrellas. Dr Guthrie wrote thus in 1870 : " I well 
remember preaching, under a cold, wintry sky, to the good 
and brave people of Wanlockhead. I honour them highly." 
Mr Hastings for nearly ten years lived in one of the little 
cottages, entering the manse in 1852 and the church in 1859. 
He expended a great amount of labour, and had to withstand 
during these sixteen years great severities of winter. His 
attachment both to the place and the people could not well 
be surpassed. He died in 1875, in his 80th year, and was 
buried in the churchyard of Mouswald." 

2nd Minister. James Moir Porteous, who was ordained 
colleague and successor to Mr Hustings, 19th Nov., 1868, 
became sole minister in 1875. Mr Porteous gained several 
prizes for Essays on Popery and Protestantism, notably 
in 1868, the prize of 50 for an Essay on Protestantism, open 
to the ministers of the Free Church, which was subsequently 
published under the title, " The Government of the Kingdom 
of Christ," and has reached a third edition. He was appointed 
Secretary to the " Protestant Institute of Scotland," and has 
been much engaged, both in his writings and personal labours 

424 History of Sanquliar. 

otherwise, in resisting the aggressions of Popery in this 
country. In recognition of these exertions, he had conferred 
upon him, in 1877, the degree of D.D. by the College of 
Greeueville and Tusculura. Dr Porteous' other works are 
" God's Treasure-House in Scotland," a " History of Wan- 
lockhead and Leadhills," with special reference to the work- 
ing for gold and the lead-mining operations, " Brethren in 
the Keelhowes," and other minor works. On the appoint- 
ment of Dr Thomas Smith to the Chair of Pastoral Theology, 
Dr Porteous succeeded him in the pastorate of Cowgatehead 
Free Church, Edinburgh, in June, 1881. 

3rd Minister. Andrew Brown, ordained Nov., 1881. 

The Church is seated for 400. The membership is 200. 
The minister receives the equal dividend of 150, and the 
total contributions of the members for the year are 142. 

The following account of Lead-Mining in the Lowthers 
was written by the late Dr Watson, of Wanlockhead, and 
was published in 1838 : 

The Lead Mines of Wanlockhead are said to have been discovered in 
the minority of King James the Sixth, by Cornelius Hardskins, a German, 
when searching for gold at that place. 

Sir James Stampfield was the first person who, about the year 1680, 
opened them up ; and he carried them on, with some degree of success, 
till the Revolution. Mathew Wilson succeeded Sir James Stampfield in 
the year 1691, and had a lease of 19 years. The Governor and Company 
for smelting down lead ore with coal, succeeded Mathew Wilson in the 
year 1710. They had a lease for 31 years, and wrought extensively in Old 
Glencrieve, and also in Beltongrain vein ; but were unsuccessful till they 
found out New Glencrieve vein, out of which they raised a very consider- 
able quantity of ore in a short time. In the year 1721, several gentlemen 
of London, Newcastle, and Edinburgh, having united under the name of 
the Friendly Mining Society, entered into partnership with the Smelting 
Company, for carrying on the Mines of Wanlockhead upon a further lease 
of 31 years. They carried on the Mines extensively by working all the 
principal veins, viz. : New Glencrieve, Old Glencrieve, Cove, and Belton- 
grain, till the year 1727 ; when the Company and Society separated, and 

History of Sanquhar. 425 

divided the Mining grounds in the manner described in a deed of separa- 
tion. The Friendly Society carried on their workings to some extent, and 
with a considerable degree of energy, till the year 1734 ; at which time, 
having ascertained that they had been great losers, although they had 
raised a valuable quantity of lead ore, they resigned their lease ; and were 
succeeded by William and Alexander Telfer. These gentlemen carried on 
the workings, though rather unsuccessfully, till William's death ; after 
which Alexander made some farther trials on New Gleucrieve vein, which 
turned out very fortunate. Mr Alexander Telfer was succeeded by Messrs 
Ronald Crawford Company (now the Wanlockhead Mining Company), in 
the year 1755 ; and they being gentlemen not only of capital, but of great 
enterprise, have had several of the principal veins prosecuted not only 
vigorously, but most judiciously, and to a great extent. But that I may 
be able to give those individuals who may deem this narrative deserving 
of a perusal some idea, not only of the leading, but also of the subordinate 
veins, I shall mention the relative situation of each ; and shall, therefore, 
begin with the most Westerly one that has as yet been wrought I mean 
New Glencrieve. 

This vein, sometimes spelled Glencrieff, crosses the Wanlock Burn a 
little above the present low mill, and passes through Whitescleugh 
meadow, into the Limpen ridge. It has not been wrought north of 
Wanlock Burn, but several drifts have been cut to the south of that line ; 
each successive drift being a good many fathoms higher in the hill than 
the one under it, and carried through the skirt and side of Gleuglass ridge, 
towards its summit. At the Scarr, in the upper part of Glencrieve Burn, 
there have also been considerable trials; the uppermost drift of which, 
from the Scarr, was 150 fathoms in length, while the other drift made 
about 300 more in all 450 fathoms. The Scarr workings were begun by 
the Smelting Company about the year 1720, and were prosecuted with 
success, in consequence of the discovery of a considerable body of ore. 
These workings were also carried on after the union of the Smelting and 
Friendly Mining Societies, but with very little success, although they 
made several trials northward in the side of Glenglass hill. The drift 
nearly opposite to the Company's large Smelting Mill was set on by a Mr 
Weightman, alias Dean-of -Guild Weightman, a gentleman who had at that 
time acquired some knowledge of mining. It was thence called the Dean- 
of-Guild's drift. The other workings had been carried on for some time 
by the Company's agents, rather in an artful manner ; and, as appeared 
afterwards, for the purpose of harassing the Society by unsuccessful 
working. The discovery of this occasioned the re-division of the Mines, 
and the termination of the partnership, in the year 1727. 

After this the Friendly Mining Society, under the superintendence of 
Mr Weightman, commenced new trials, on the same vein, by driving 
northward from the then lowest level, set on from Glencrieve Burn to the 
middle workings ; also, by driving southward from the Dean-of-Guild's 
drift, towards the same place, and likewise by several other workings, 


426 History of Sanquhar. 

thereby cutting up that vein to the extent, as above mentioned, of 450 
fathoms. During these operations the Society raised much more ore than 
had been procured by the Smelting Company ; but not having secured a 
sufficient quantity to cover the expense incurred, the mines were resigned, 
and the Society dissolved, in the year 1734. The Friendly Mining Society 
were succeeded by William and Alexander Telfer ; they also prosecuted 
the workings in New Glencriev e till William's death ; after which event 
Alexander turned his attention to the westward of New Glencrieve, where 
Mr Weightman had given it as his opinion that lead ore would be found ; 
and having driven up Glenglass level, at a very considerable expense, he 
fortunately cut what was then thought to be an intersector, but which 
has since, however, been considered a string from New Glencrieve vein ; 
and its course being nearly N.W. and S.E., it joins New Glencrieve a 
little to the south of Lorimer's shaft. The String, generally called the 
West Groove, was hard, occasionally close checked, and had very little 
vein stuff, with the exception of a little blueish clay, quartz, carbonate of 
lime, heavy spar, and pyrites ; but was comparatively rich in ore, and 
yielded a fair harvest to Mr Telfer for a number of years. It is reported, 
by some of the old miners that a small belly of ore was left in the sole of 
the low drift, and also that one of the midlands, in which there was a 
considerable quantity of Rider, mixed with lead ore, was neglected ; but 
as the present Company wrought the String for some years after they got 
their lease, it may be inferred that these statements are incorrect. The 
operations on the Intersector or String are said to have extended to about 
60 fathoms in depth. The mine was cleared of water, partly by water- 
wheels, and partly by hand pumps. The quantity of water in the mine, 
according to the statement of the old miners, was small. Old Glencrieve 
vein lies about 80 fathoms east of New Glencrieve, passes through Wanlock 
Burn a little above the Company's large Smelting Mill, and near to Hard- 
skins walls. The north end of this vein crosses the highway to Whites- 
cleugh, the skirt of the Dodhill, \Vhitescleugh Burn, and then enters the 
hill called Limpin ridge. The south end enters what is generally called 
the Blackhill, where it is steepest, and is driven between three and four 
hundred fathoms in two drifts ; one from the burn, and the other from the 
side of the hill, entering a little below the road to Glencrieve Scarr. The 
soils of this vein are of a yellow and grey colour, and the ore found in it 
above the level of Wanlock Burn lies in pretty large lumps ; while that 
got below the burn was formed into a rib. The workings north of Wanlock 
Burn were carried on by Sir James Stampfield ; those south of it by the 
Smelting Company, about the year 1727 or 1728, before their partnership 
with the Friendly Mining Society. The upper drift was prosecuted for 
several fathoms south ; but no ore having been found, and the way -gates 
being difficult and expensive, the mine was again abandoned till the year 
1794. At that time the present Company not only made a trial in the old 
workings, but also sunk a pit 28 fathoms in depth, near the side of Wanlock 
Burn, on which they established a water-wheel, and latterly a steam- 

History of Sanquhar. 427 

engine of twelve horse power, to assist the former in raising the water of 
the mine 20 fathoms (the depth of the main level), Stampfield's being 
eight fathoms from the surface. In prosecuting this trial, the Company 
not only cut into the vein by a cross cut from the middle of the sump, but 
continued their operations northward and southward till they reached the 
old workings of the Smelting Company, without procuring more than a 
few tons of ore. The low forehead was driven south to the extent of 130 
fathoms, was in general rather easily wrought, and did not require to be 
supported with wood ; but there also very little ore was procured, and the 
ground, upon the whole, cannot be considered as very promising in appear- 
ance. It is the opinion of some, however, that it will be more productive 
to the north. The late Mr Meason commenced a cross cut from the Ledger 
side of Clencrieve low drift, south, to be driven nearly due west, for the 
purpose of cutting New Glencrieve vein ; but this trial, though a very 
feasible one, was suspended in 1831, to be resumed again, in all proba- 
bility, at no very distant period. A trial is also being made further south 
on Old Glencrieve vein, by making a cross cut nearly due west from the 
north side of Menock-hass towards the summit of the Blackhill ; but 
though the vein has been cut lately, and the soils look rather well, very 
little ore has hitherto been got. From the veins diverging as they run 
south, the cross cut has extended to one hundred and seventy fathoms in 

Weir's vein lies about fifty fathoms east of Old Glencrieve vein. It was 
discovered by the Friendly Mining Society in Whitescleugh level, and was 
driven about fourteen fathoms south, on the point of eighteen degrees east 
of south, and from Wanlock Burn twenty-four fathoms south, where it is 
called Abraham's, but is the same vein as Weir's. This vein has also been 
cut lately by the Menock-hass cross cut, but has not, as yet, been tried at 
that place. 

Straitstep, alias White.scleugh, is next in order, and lies about 40 
fathoms to the east of Weir's. This vein runs from Whitescleugh through 
the end of the Dodhill, crosses Wanlock Burn, nearly opposite to the 
Company's store ; continues its course through the more level part of the 
Blackhill, a little to the west of the Library, and then enters the Stake 
Moss to the east of Menock-hass. It was a very strong vein, but had 
several snecks, or checks, in the Dodhill, one of which was forty fathoms 
in length, and commonly called the Straitstep, from which the vein has its 
name. Mathew Wilson having succeeded Sir James Stampfield, in the 
year 1691, wrought this vein extensively and successfully quite through 
the Dodhill, from Whitescleugh to Wanlock Burn. The Smelting Com- 
pany, likewise, operated considerably in the same vein, having cut a drift 
through the Dodhill, lower than Mathew Wilson's, at a great expense ; 
and they not only carried on the workings above level in the Dodhill, but 
the drifts northward of Whitescleugh Burn ; and those through Wanlock 
Burn, and south of it. The Smelting Company, after having operated for 
some time, under some disadvantage, at last found it necessary, from the 

428 History of Sanquhar. 

state of the mine, to erect a water-engine, or wheel, north side of Waulock 
Burn, a few fathoms N.W. of the Chapel. By this means they were 
enabled to sink under level, and to take out a very great quantity of 
excellent ore, which lay in several knots betwixt Straitstep and the 
engine, a distance of one hundred and eighteen fathoms ; so that at that 
period there had been more ore taken out of Straitstep than from all the 
other veins together, with the exception of New Glencrieve. The present 
Company, likewise, operated in Straitstep for several years, and raised a 
great quantity of ore in different parts of the mine ; particularly out of 
that part of it called Alison's Soles. They sixnk to the depth of 35 
fathoms under the main level, but were obliged to abandon the workings 
referred to, from a want of surface water for their water-wheel, both 
during the droughts of summer and frosts in winter. This mine was 
relinquished about the year 1786 or 1787. Sometime afterwards, however, 
the Company erected a steam-engine on the north end of the vein, Whites- 
cleugh, having previously turned their attention to the south end of it, 
where Dean-of -Guild Weightmau had operated to some extent in or about 
the year 1746. He, Mr Weightman, having entered upon his lease with 
rather a favourable prospect of success, sunk a shaft upon the vein where 
it was bearing ore, on the south side of Wanlock Burn, and also brought 
up the Smelting Company's level to that shaft ; in consequence of which 
his level was under thirty fathoms cover, which level he prosecuted about 
450 fathoms in length towards the water-fall of Menock-hass. The vein 
was strong, and, at several places in its course, yielded a respectable 
quantity of good ore ; but Mr Weightman having met with several 
obstructions in the prosecution of his plans, was under the necessity of 
reducing the number of his workmen, and finally of abandoning his lease, 
which was a sub-lease from Mr Alexander Telfer. About the period 
referred to (1750), there appears to have been three Mining Companies in 
Wanlockhead, whose boundaries were as follows, viz. The Smelting 
Company possessed all the ground lying northward of Wanlock Burn, and 
eastward of Old Glencrieve vein ; and all the ground eastward of Menock- 
hass and Menock Burn ; while Alexander Telfer held all the ground 
southward and northward of 'Wanlock Burn, which lies westward of Old 
Gleucrieve -the ground eastward of that vein, as far as Meuock-hass, and 
lying southward of Waulock Burn, being sub-leased to Mr Weightman as 
before mentioned. The present Company succeeded to the Mining 
Liberties in 1755 ; and commenced operations in that part of the bounds 
which formerly belonged to Mr Weightman, in or about the year 1760. 
They not only drove the vein at that part called Margaret's Vein, further 
to the south, but also rose on several knots of ore in the roof of the drift, 
and likewise made a trial in the sole of the level with hand pumps. This 
trial was so encouraging that in the year 1778 the Company were induced 
to erect a steam-engine of forty horse power, after which the mine was 
worked with a good deal of ardour for a number of years. But, about the 
year 1787, the first engine having been ascertained to be too small, a 

History of Sanquhar. 429 

second and a more powerful one was erected ; the mine was sunk to the 
depth of 90 fathoms from the surface, and the foreheads in the different 
randoms prosecuted both north and south as long as they continued to 
bear ore. Margaret's Vein, so called in honour of the late Countess of 
Dumfries, was particularly rich in mineral substances ; and contained, 
besides the common galena, or sulphuret of lead, sulphate of lead, 
carbonate of lead, sulphuret of zinc, carbonate of zinc, sulphate of barytes, 
carbonate of lime, ochry, red ironstone, and red hematite. None of these, 
however, with the exception of galena, were of any consequence ; but in so 
far as the latter was concerned, it was one of the most productive mines 
that had till then been wrought, and yielded a very large quantity of lead 
ore, eight men having been known to raise 70 or 80 tons in the course of 
three months, and this was found principally to the south of the Engine 
Pit, and was entirely taken out. The forehead, formerly mentioned as 
having been carried on by Mr Weightman, was also driven to some extent 
by the present Company. It stands under the road near to the top of 
Menock-hass, and, according to the testimony of one of the most respect- 
able of the miners who was employed in it at the time when it was given 
up, it had not only become a little wetter than it had been for some time 
previous, but likewise a little softer and more easily cut ; so much so, 
indeed, that the miners were under the necessity of using timber to support 
the roof. This account is rather encouraging to future speculators ; and, 
when taken in conjunction with the appearance of the ground further 
south, leads us to infer that Margaret's Vein is likely to prove as pro- 
ductive in the Menock side of the hill as it has been in other parts of its 
course. The quantity of ore raised during the prosecution of Margaret's 
Vein, and the north end of Beltongrain Vein, amounted, for several years, 
to from 20 to 24,000 bars. 

A short time previous to the termination of their operations at Menock- 
hass, the Company turned their attention to the north end of said vein, 
where it crosses Whitescleugh Burn. There they also established a steam- 
engine of sixty horse power, on the plan of the late Mr William Symington, 
and sunk the mine to the depth of 47 fathoms under the main level. That 
part of the vein which is north of the Engine Pit, was pretty rich, and 
produced a considerable quantity of excellent ore so far as it did bear, but 
having entered an extensive clay bed, which runs nearly east and west for 
some miles, the forehead ceased to bear ore, and the Company, of course, 
turned their attention more particularly to the south end of the mine, 
where the vein runs through the end of the Dodhill towards Straitstep 
proper. On this account, and also from Whitescleugh being sunk 12 or 15 
fathoms deeper than Straitstep, as was shewn by a communication that was 
made betwixt the two mines, the Company were enabled to take out much 
ore in Straitstep, which otherwise would have been lost. 

The Highlandman's Vein lies about 30 fathoms east of Straitstep, was 
opened up by the Smelting Company, and prosecuted only a few fathoms 
on the south-side of the Dodhill. 

430 History of Sanquhar. 

Whitescleugh was abandoned in the year 1800. The Cove Vein, so 
called from its great width, lies about 200 fathoms east of Straitstep, and 
runs through the thickest part of the Dodhill, a little to the east of the 
southern extremity of Herrop's Level, continues its course nearly due south 
towards that side of the Dodhill, crosses the Waulock Burn near the 
Schoolhonse, and enters the Stake Moss a little to the east of the Fiddler's 
Bridge. The Cove Vein was first opened up by Sir James Stampfield ; and 
soon after the commencement of his lease in 1680, that gentleman began 
and carried on a cross-cut from Whitescleugh Burn, which cut the said 
vein ; but from the shortness of his lease (eleven years) he was unable to 
prosecute it to any extent. The workings in the Cove Vein were resumed 
by Mathew Wilson in 1691, and also by the Smelting Company in 1710 ; 
and, according to the statement of a number of the old miners, were very 
productive in the higher part of the vein. Mr Telfer continued to work 
this mine likewise with some success ; and the present Company, in pro- 
secuting Whitescleugh cross-cut, immediately after they got their lease- 
cut the Cove Vein 28 fathoms lower than the drift set on by Sir James 
Stampfield. After this, the vein was wrought, not only north of the cross, 
cut to some distance, but south of it to the extent of 190 fathoms. The 
Company likewise sunk two sumps, each 14 fathoms in depth, from the 
high drift (Stampfield's) to the lower one ; and occasionally employed a 
few miners as adventurers, not only in the sole of the high drift, but also 
in different parts of the low one, where the miners considered there was 
any prospect of success. About the year 1820, however, the Company 
turned their attention more particularly to the Cove Vein ; and, having 
erected a small steam-engine, and lately a more powerfxil one, they were 
enabled to sink to the depth of 40 fathoms under the main level, and to 
prosecute the foreheads, both north and south, to a considerable distance. 
The foreheads to the south were driven, in the different randoms, to the 
extent of from 60 to 70 fathoms ; while to the north the highest drift was 
cut to the distance of 110 fathoms, and the one immediately under it to 
somewhat less. The lower part of this groove to the north remains unex- 
plored. About the year 1830 or 1831, the late Gilbert Laing Meason, Esq., 
one of the partners of, and likewise agent for, the Company, having con- 
sidered the great reduction that had taken place in the price of bar lead, 
the difficulty experienced in raising an annual crop of eight or ten thousand 
bars, and the impossibility of both remunerating the Company and allow- 
ing the men fair wages for their labour, began to entertain the idea of 
resigning the lease, and actually, as I have been told, made the proposition 
to the Marquis of Bute ; but his Lordship, not feeling disposed to resign 
his interest in the mines urged the propriety of continuing their exertions 
for a longer period ; to which Mr Meason agreed, but at the same time 
resigned the agency, to the great regret of almost every individual con- 
nected with the mining establishment. The Cove Vein is more difficult to 
cut than some of the other veins we have mentioned, and the knots of ore 
are generally much shorter, although they occasionally extend, in point of 
width, to not less than two feet, sometimes to more. 

History of Sanquhar. 48 J 

Mr Borron, having succeeded Mr Meason iii 1831 as agent, and appointed 
Messrs Stewart & Weir as his overseers, he very soon after erected a water 
press engine on the Cove Vein, which has hitherto answered the purpose 
tolerably well, and by means of which the Company have been enabled to 
sink 10 fathoms deeper, to cut the vein six or eight fathoms south, and to 
operate to the depth of seven or eight fathoms on a small knot of ore in 
the sole of said drift. After the Cove Vein passes Herrop's Level, it gives 
off a branch, which runs a few points west of south. This branch has been 
explore 1 to the extent of several hundred fathoms, in three drifts, by the 
present Company. The lowest of these commences as low as the sole of 
the main level, at the Burn Shaft Foot. The middle one on a level with 
the dam which collected the water for Glencrieve water-wheel ; and the 
highest one enters the Dodhill nearly opposite to, but a little higher than, 
the Company's stables. This branch of the Cove Vein, generally called 
Lochnell, has yielded a great quantity of ore, and being level free, with the 
exception of a trial made in the sole of the low drift, has not only been of 
great advantage to the Company in a pecuniary point of view, but also from 
enabling them, on several occasions, when the leading veins became less 
productive, or the steam-engines on said veins were occasionally stopped, 
from the low price of lead, or any other particular circumstance, to 
accommodate a number of workmen till their prospects again brightened, 
and the various trials could be resumed with a greater prospect of success. 
The trial made in the sole of the low drift is near the point where Loch, 
nell leaves the main branch of the Cove Vein, extends to the depth of nearly 
20 fathoms, and to rather more than the same extent in length, all of which 
midland has. been wrought out. The mine, however, has not been aban- 
doned ; for Mr Wilson, the present agent, who succeeded Mr Borron in 
1836, has erected lately a small water-press engine near the trial referred 
to, with the intention of exploring the ground, both north and south ; and 
as the prospect is rather favourable, and the quantity of water in the mine 
moderate, it is probable that the working will be carried to some depth, 
and that this vein will yield a considerable quantity of ore for some years 
to come. 

With respect to the main branch of Cove Vein, where it passes along the 
south side of the Dodhill, no trial of consequence has as yet been made, 
although a number of the more experienced miners have long entertained 
favourable notions of it as a bearing vein. Some of those, indeed (one of 
whom died lately), had a distinct recollection of a trial having been made, 
either on it, or a branch from it, where it passes through the skirt of the 
Dodhill, a little behind that row of houses which stands a little to the north 
of the Company's workshop, in which a little lead ore was found. The late 
Mr John Taylor, one of the most ingenious and scientific overseers ever 
connected with any Company, thought favourably of this part of the Cove 
Vein, and for some time previous to the year 1800 had the Burn cross-cut 
prosecuted with a good deal of spirit, for the purpose of cutting it near the 
Schoolhouse, at a depth at from 25 to 30 fathoms ; but his career of use- 

432 History of Sanquhar. 

fulness being arrested by the hand of death in 1806, the cross-cut was 
abandoned, and as not since been resumed, although the forehead is stand- 
ing not many fathoms from the vein. This trial, in case of a new lease 
being entered into, would probably be among the first that would receive 
attention from the Company ; not only from its near connection with Cove 
Vein, but on account of other advantages, which are likely to result from 
the prosecution of it. 

Mr Taylor was succeeded in the management of the mines by the late Mr 
John Bramwell, a man of an ardent and energetic mind, and a good miner, 
who possessed the entire confidence of the Company, and who conducted 
the mines with great propriety until his death in 1819. It may be 
mentioned here that the prosecution of Milligan's forehead, and also of the 
Burn cross-cut, was stopped in opposition to the wishes of both the gentle- 
men mentioned. 

Goldscour Vein lies a few fathoms east of Cove Vein, runs nearly parallel 
with it, and under the upper part of that row of houses generally called 
Goldscour Row. The Smelting Company opened up this vein by cutting 
a drift from the side of the Wanlock Burn ; but it has been neglected since 
that period. 

Crawford's Vein lies about 80 fathoms east of Cove Vein ; passes through 
the middle of the Dodhill ; runs south near the Manse, and Company's 
Office, crosses Wanlock Burn near the mouth of the Townhead main level, 
and enters the Stake Moss a very little to the west of Howat's Moss. 
Crawford's Vein, in the Dodhill, is pretty strong in vein stuff, and yielded 
a smajl quantity of ore ; but the operations in it appear to have been so 
very trifling and so near the surface that it would be hard to say whether 
it is likely to bear at a greater depth. The probability is that it will do so ; 
and should it be deemed advisable to make a trial at a greater depth, it 
may be done with great propriety, as soon as the Beltongrain is freed of 
water, by making a cross-cut due west from that vein. 

Beltongrain Vein lies about 85 fathoms east of Crawford's ; it is a very 
strong bold vein, and is so soft even at the depth of 60 fathoms as to require 
the regular use of wood. This vein was first opened up by Sir James 
Stampfield, carried on by Mathew Wilson, and latterly by the Smelting 
Company to the extent of 300 fathoms in two drifts. A water-wheel was 
erected on it by the latter Company ; but here, as in some other of the 
mining liberties, where the same measures had been adopted, the attempt 
was rendered in a great measure abortive from the want of surface water. 
The lead ore during the first trials made on the upper and south end of 
Beltongrain Vein does nob appear to have been formed into a very regular 
rib, but often lay in large lumps, and in ground so soft and difficult to keep 
up, even with timber, that, owing to the great expense incurred, the Smelt- 
ing Company were under the necessity of abandoning it. No sooner, how- 
ever, had the present Company succeeded to the whole of the mining 
liberties in 1755, than their principal overseer, a Mr Williamson, directed 
his attention to the north end of Beltongrain, where it enters the Dodhill, 

History o/ Sanqvkar. 433 

near Whitescleugh Burn, and, in pursuance of his plan opened a cross-cut 
nearly due east from Crawford's Vein, for the purpose of discovering Belton- 
grain, which he did 14 fathoms below the waggon sole, in the random of 
Stewart's Drift. Again, the Wanlockhead Company resumed a cross-cut 
which had been commenced by some of their predecessors, from the 
random of Cove Level, which cross-cut discovered Beltongrain a second 
time, 20 fathoms lower than Stewart's Drift. The vein having looked 
rather promising when opened up by the first cross-cut, the managers were 
induced to sink a shaft from the surface, near Sandilands Drift, 14 fathoms 
in depth ; and from the bottom of said shaft, to prosecute the vein both 
north and south ; north, till they arrived at the surface on the south side 
of Whitescleugh Glen, and south, to the distance of upwards of 200 fathoms. 
This random, generally called Waggon Drift, from waggons having been 
used in it for the removal of the lead ore, &c. , was divided into three stages 
of nearly 100 fathoms each, with the exception of the door-stage, and at 
the end of each stage a sump was sunk 14 fathoms in depth to the random 
below (Stewart's Drift). The same mode of communication was continued 
from Stewart's to Kerr's Drift, a distance of 1 1 fathoms ; and finally to 
Tait's, a distance of 9 fathoms. 

Thus a communication was formed throughout every part of this 
extensive mine from the drift (Tait's) to Sandilands, the highest of the 
series ; and the mine was carried on in the most regular and scientific 
manner possible. As the north end of Beltongrain, like Loch-nell, was level 
free, so like the latter it was often had recourse to for the accommodation 
of the miners when difficulties occurred in other places, and seldom or 
never failed to remunerate the adventurous workman, provided his 
exertions were continued for a sufficient length of time The Beltongrain 
Vein here, as at Townhead (south end of the vein), was a strong bold vein, 
often extending to the width of 12 and 14, sometimes to 20 feet ; and was 
occasionally wrought in double drift. Still it was much easier kept than 
on the south side of the Dodhill, being neither so heavy nor so soft as in 
that quarter. The lead ore in this part of Beltongrain was occasionally 
formed into one or more ribs, varying in width from 2 or 3 inches to as 
many feet ; while at other times it lay in distinct pieces (self-lumps), and 
was often found mixed with Rider, brammeled, as the miners say, in which 
state considerable difficulty was often experienced in working it, from the 
number of lough-holes (Druses) it c nitained. The north end of this vein 
was very productive, even in the upper workings, and not only carried ore 
to a considerable height above Sandilaud's Drift, but actually to the 
surface of the earth, where it was got in considerable quantity by merely 
removing a little moss and gravel from the top of the vein. In this respect, 
Beltongrain appears to have been rather singular, as no other vein in this 
quarter, with the exception of the Cove Vein, has hitherto borne lead ore 
so near the surface. The present Company commenced sinking their first 
engine pit on the south side of the Dodhill, at that part of the Beltongrain 
Vein, generally called Townhead, in January, 1799; and by the end of 


434 History of Sanqultar. 

October, 1800, with the assistance of hand-pumps, which were wrought 
with great difficulty, they sunk to the distance of 11 fathoms under the 
level. But the quantity of water in the sinking being large, and a steam- 
engine of sixty horse power having been erected on Mr Symington's plan 
for cleaning the mine of water, it was started on the 31st October, and the 
sinking prosecuted, though with considerable difficulty, to the depth of 56 
fathoms from the surface, and 40 under the level. The first sinking was 
calculated to cut the vein at the depth of 56 fathoms, which it did. The 
north forehead in the low random (generally called Gibson's), as well as 
the south one, was prosecuted throughout the whole of 1801, 18' '2, and 
1803 ; and as the appearance of the vein was extremely flattering, the Com- 
pany were induced to commence another pit at the surface, 30 fathoms 
east of the former, for the purpose of cutting the vein at a greater depth. 
The pit was begun in March, 1803, and continued with a good deal of 
ardour, till, in 1813, it reached the depth of 123 fathoms. During the 
sinking of the latter pit the foreheads and other workings immediatel con- 
nected with engine farthest west were prosecuted with great activity by 
the, late Mr John Bramwell, and also by his successors, Messrs Williamson 
& Bramwell. Welsh's forehead, the highest of the series, and 10 fathoms 
under the level, was driven to the extent of north. Watson's, 

the next in the order of descent, and '20 fathoms under the level, was cut 
till it formed a junction with the workings in the north side of the Dodhill ; 
while Gibson's, which is 40 fathoms under the level, was prosecuted to the 
distance of 270 fathoms north, but was abandoned by the late manager in 
1831, at which period the forehead was not only lively, but had actually a 
rib of ore six inches wide on the Ledger side. The second engine which 
the Company had recourse to on Townhead Groove, an engine of 70-horse 
power, on Watt & Bolton's plan, was erected in the year 1806. The first 
fathoms that were sunk under the random of Gibson's Drift, were 
accomplished with hand-pumps, after which, in consequence of the increase 
of water, the engine was started, and continued to move, with the 
exception of a few months in 1816' and 1817, till 1823 or 1824. At this time 
the bar lead became so much reduced in price, and the expense of coals so 
excessive, that it was thought advisable to abandon the lower part of the 
mine, at least till such time as their circumstances should improve, or 
Milligan's forehead could be cut south through the Dodhill ; and merely to 
keep the large engine erected by Mr Symington in 1811 (an engine of 90- 
horse power), going during ' he summer months, while the feeders were 
low. These measures were adopted several years previous to 1831. The 
other part of Townhead groove, I mean that part of it which was cleared 
of water by Watt & Bolton's engine, was also divided by three principal 
drifts, the first of which, taking them in the order of descent, is 20 fathoms 
under Gibson's, is called Boe's, and is driven 83 fathoms north and 68 
south ; the second, Law's, 20 fathoms under Boe's, is cut 32 fathoms north, 
and 90 south ; while Lorimer's, the lowest of the series, is cut 80 fathoms 
south, There are likewise three intermediate drifts, one in the middle of 
each random. 

History of Sanquhar. 435 

With respect to the foreheads in the different randoms now referred to, 
none of them, I believe, can be considered as checked, and three of them 
at least, contain small quantities of ore. As for those more immediately 
connected with the upper and south part of the vein, I mean Gibson's and 
Watson's foreheads, the former, although it consists entirely of rock, has 
still a very fair Ledger, and probably may open at no great distance from 
where it stands ; while Watson's has not only a considerable quantity of 
mother, but also a little rider mixed with lead-oie, and certainly would 
have been prosecuted bur. for the chance of overburdening the engine with 
an increase of water. 

The most extensive knot of ore that occurred in the Townhead groove 
was first discovered in Gibson's random, and extended 50 fathoms north, 
and from 15 to 20 south. In Boe's the same knot reached 50 fathoms 
north, and 45 south ; in Law's drift, 42 north, and 65 south ; and in 
Lorimer's, the lowest of the series, it extended 70 fathoms in length, in 
the highest 10 fathom ; of the midland ; whilst in the last ten it was con- 
siderably shorter, and in the sole of the drift one place only was deemed 
worthy of trial, which trial extended to 7 fathoms in depth, and a few 
fathoms in length. Thus the extent of said knot, in point of height, would 
not amount to less than from 80 to 90 fathoms, while its medium length 
could not be less than 80 - a deposit of ore hitherto unequalled in this 
district, whether we take into consideration the quality or quantity of the 
ore raised. And as I am rather below than above its aggregate extent, 
those individuals who are conversant in mining affairs will be able to form 
some idea of the prodigious quantity of ore which so rich a mine must 
have produced. Independent of this principal deposit, several others of 
less extent were found in the different randoms, as well as in different 
strings or branches, which occasionally diverge from the course of the 
vein, a number of which have not yet been fully explored. The medium 
width of this excellent knot of ore might amount t>> 8 or 9 inches, or 
perhaps more. 

Having stated thus much respecting what has already been done in 
Townhead groove, I may also observe that much may yet be done in that 
quarter, provided proper measures be adopted for freeing the mine of 
water ; and as that object can be effected only by prosecuting the late Mr 
Taylor's plan, I would beg leave, therefore, to recommend it to the 
attention of futiire speculators as well worthy of their notice. It is this 
immediately after establishing the first steam-engine on Beltongrain Vein, 
at the Townhead, and perceiving that a second one would be necessary, he 
began, with a view to lessen the expense, to cut Milligan's forehead south, 
through the Dodhill. This plan he in part realised, but it was given up a 
short time after his death. Milligan's forehead is the lowest connected 
with Beltongrain vein on the north side of the Dodhiil ; it is 28 fathoms 
lower than Tait's drift, and had it been continued would have entered the 
first sunk engine pit at the Townhead, 3 or 4 fathoms from its bottom, and 
consequently the largest and most expensive engine would have been 

436 History of Sanquhar. 

entirely set aside ; Milligan's drift would have been converted into the 
main level, the forehead would have been cut into the Stakemoss-hill, 
under 50 fathoms cover, and might have been continued, if necessary, to 
the extremity of the mining boundary. Further, by this moans the lower 
part of Townhead groove might have been wrought at a trifling expense, 
and the continuation of Milligan's drift cut quite through the Stakemoss- 
hill ; and thus it would not only have explored the Beltongrain Vein, 
where it crosses the Mossy Burn, and where the ground looks well, but 
might have become the centre of communications with other veins through 
the medium of cross-cuts driven east or west, as the case required. The 
number of lead bars raised when the Townhead groove was most productive 
amounted for several years to 20,000 or upwards ; and one season to 
24,000 ; at which period the lead was selling from 30 to 40 per ton. 
The following are a few of the minerals which are frequently found in 
Townhead groove, viz. : Ochre of Manganese, Quartz, Calamine, Phos- 
phate of Lead, Brown Iron Ochre, Carbonate of Lead, Sulphate of Lead, 
Carbonate of Lime, Heavy Spar, and Vanadiate of Lead. Milligan's fore- 
head has been resumed a few months ago, and may be considered as a 
prime measure in the prosecution of Townhead groove ; at least, so thought 
Mr Taylor, the projector of the plan. Mr Williamson and Mr John 
Bramwell, I have reason to believe, entertain the same ideas, and the 
opinions of both these gentlemen are entitled to notice. 

New Vein is a branch or string from Beltongrain, and lies about 20 
fathoms east of the same, opposite Waggon Drift. It was first tried about 
1780 by making a cross-cut from Stewart's drift, and several tons of ore 
were got in the sole of the drift with the assistance of hand-pumps. A 
trial is at present being made ten fathoms lower by making a cross-cut 
from Kerr's drift, but the vein is not very